The Third Wife: A Film Into the Heart of Women in Vietnam

Why We Recommend it

The NETPAC Award-winning film at the Toronto International Film Festival, based on Ash Mayfair’s family history, traces a coming-of-age story, a tale of love and self-discovery in a time when women in Vietnam were rarely given a voice.


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 tantalising possibility when she gets pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, the young wife finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are few and far between.

To the Vietnamese director, the themes of women’s sexuality, the growth from childhood to adulthood and the individual’s struggle within a conservative patriarchal society have always been fascinating. She grew up in Vietnam, a society that held traditions, history, and community to be more valuable than personal independence. The heroine of this story embarks on a journey where her identity must assume many roles, that of a child, a woman, a wife, a lover, and eventually a mother. The men and women in Mayfair’s script are all drawn from real people, connected to the rural landscape of the country. The story, although fictitious, is a tapestry woven from many true events. Both Mayfair’s great-grandmother and grand-mother had arranged marriages at a young age. Her great-grandmother lived in a polygamous marriage from when she was a teenager until the end of her life. The history of arranged marriages is deep-rooted and she was drawn to the subject not only because of her familial heritage but also because this is unfortunately a practice that still exists in several countries in the world.


Please note that The Third Wife is a category-III film. English and Chinese subtitles are provided for the Vietnamese film.


When: 15 Aug 2019 - 15 Oct 2019 Where: Broadway Cinematheque – 3 Public Square St – Yau Ma Tei