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




  • "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
  • "...aesthetically entrancing...sensitively poetic...."
    Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "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

Now Playing

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Hawaii International Film Festival Honolulu HI November 8, 2018 November 18, 2018
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Palm Springs International Film Festival Palm Springs CA January 3, 2019 January 14, 2019
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Railroad Square Cinema Waterville ME February 16, 2019 February 19, 2019
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Filmfest DC - Washington DC International Film Festival Washington DC April 25, 2019 May 5, 2019
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