Sumptuous, sensuous visuals play off devastating repression in 19th-century rural Vietnam in this stunning first feature from Ash Mayfair.
As a rich landowner’s third wife, May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) lives in an atmospheric world of lantern-lit trysts and lush tropical fields. Life and death cycle constantly on the estate, shown most evocatively in the repeated images of silkworms at work. At first, May enjoys her privileges, with servants always at hand, and quickly becomes pregnant. But as tragedy ripples through the farm, she starts to see her true role, as property and babymaker, a woman discovering her lack of agency at the same time that she’s finding her identity. It’s as beautiful as it is complex—an accomplishment that will remind you of early Zhang Yimou and Tran Anh Hung. If they were women, of course.