The Third Wife

Directed by Ash Mayfair
Film Movement
96 Minutes

In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May becomes the third wife of wealthy landowner Hung. Soon she learns that she can only gain status by asserting herself as a woman who can give birth to a male child. May’s hope to change her status turns into a real and tantalizing possibility when she gets pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, May finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are few and far between.

Director & Cast




  • "[A] finespun debut feature ... The sensuality that Mayfair and Chananun Chotrungroj, the director of photography, create around May is seductive, and also unnerving."
    A.O. Scott, The New York Times
  • "...aesthetically entrancing...sensitively poetic...."
    Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "Ash Mayfair’s supremely atmospheric feature debut explores repressed desires against the resplendent but emotionally suffocating landscape of late-19th century rural Vietnam. Telling the story of a young girl who enters an arranged marriage to a landowner, The Third Wife echoes the ravishing art-house triumphs of Tran Anh Hung, who serves here as an ‘artistic advisor’, while his wife and frequent collaborator Tran Nu Yen Khe plays one of the principal roles. Yet Mayfair acquits herself in such confident fashion that her sensuously elegant drama isn’t at all hindered by the inevitable comparisons."
    John Berra, Screen Daily
  • "Debut director Ash Mayfair delivers a gorgeously intimate, evocative, and melancholy story of female subjugation in 19th-century Vietnam. [B]y focusing with unwavering empathy on the interior life of teenage bride May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My), the remarkable “The Third Wife” feels newborn and ineffably modern. Winner of prizes at both the San Sebastian and Toronto festivals, this is the rare debut that derives its freshness not from inexperience but from a balance between compassion and restraint that most filmmakers take decades to achieve."
    Jessica Kiang, Variety
  • "The visuals are key to Mayfair's success, with dialogue often kept to the minimum in favour of looks - alone or shared - that offer a window into the wives' psyches. The use of colour by Mayfair and her cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj (Hotel Mist, Pop Aye) - mainly pastels with pops of red and yellow - also recalls the mastery displayed by Zhang Yimou in his early consideration of multiple marriages, Raise The Red Lantern. Mayfair treats her scenes of sex and desire with restraint, using juxtaposition to evoke mood...."
    Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
  • "The Third Wife holds our unbroken concentration for its duration, its elegiac reverence capturing our attention with its contextually heavy pans and gorgeous frames deftly telling us where to look through sheer compositional perfection. We’re watching a world crumbling under the weight of its expectations as the prisoners within discover what matters most at the cost of innocence. It’s a mesmerizing look behind a curtain torn away so Mayfair can reveal an authenticity too often masked by historical precedent and conservative acquiescence. Love is created in rebellion, but ultimately stifled by the need for survival."
    Jared Mobarak, The Film Stage
  • "This is Ash Mayfair’s first feature film and a personal story loosely based on the life of her great-grandmother. She expertly explores the subservience of women in Vietnamese and Asian cultures. Visually, The Third Wife comes off as a wonderful painting. Director of Photography Chananun Chotrungroj beautifully captures rural Vietnam, and the sets are authentic amazing."
    Alan Ng, Film Threat
  • "Writer-director Ash Mayfair’s debut feature—about a 14-year-old girl, May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My), who is married off to much older rich man in 19th-century Vietnam—is a work of quiet empathy that skillfully depicts the harsh limits of the title character’s existence without ever reveling in her despair."
    Mallory Andrews, Cinema Scope
  • "If you liked Roma, there’s a good shot that you’ll also like The Third Wife since thefilm’s aesthetic and story are similar....Ash Mayfair is very much a visually-orienteddirector just like Alfonso Cuarón"
    Louis Proyect, The Unrepentant Marxist

Now Playing

4-Star Theatre San Francisco CA May 31, 2019 June 19, 2019
Living Room Theater Portland OR June 7, 2019 June 20, 2019
Cane Fire Film Series Lafayette LA June 10, 2019 June 16, 2019
Austin Asian American Film Festival Austin TX June 16, 2019 June 16, 2019
Palace Theater Chattanooga TN June 19, 2019 June 23, 2019
Ken Cinema San Diego CA June 21, 2019 June 28, 2019
ByTowne Cinemas Ottawa ON June 21, 2019 June 27, 2019
The Flicks Boise ID June 21, 2019 June 27, 2019
a/perture Winston Salem NC June 21, 2019 June 27, 2019
Lake Worth Playhouse Lake Worth FL June 21, 2019 June 27, 2019
Time and Space Limited Hudson NY June 22, 2019 July 7, 2019
The Dairy Center for the Arts Boulder CO June 25, 2019 June 29, 2019
Liberty Theater Camas WA June 28, 2019 July 4, 2019
Landmark Lagoon Cinema Minneapolis MN June 28, 2019 July 4, 2019
Landmark E Street Cinema Washington DC June 28, 2019 July 4, 2019
Jean Cocteau Cinema Santa Fe NM July 5, 2019 July 11, 2019
Landmark Kendall Square Cinema Cambridge MA July 5, 2019 July 12, 2019
Landmark Ritz at the Bourse Philadelphia PA July 12, 2019 July 19, 2019
SIFF Cinema Uptown Seattle WA July 26, 2019 July 28, 2019
Detroit Institute of Arts Detroit MI August 30, 2019 September 1, 2019
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