An unabashedly reticent arthouse film, The Third Wife takes its time drifting through May’s coming of age, which will try the patience of some audiences. But those open to the seduction of Mayfair’s understated drama and its beautiful natural imagery will be handsomely rewarded.
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It’s too cool for melodrama and too pretty for politics, and the drama of May’s experience occupies a middle ground between pity and indignation.
Mayfair’s The Third Wife is a powerful reminder that the oppression of women is not strictly a Western problem and everyone—women or men—want to be free to choose their own path in life.
Ash Mayfair’s debut film is an astonishing achievement for a first feature, one not every film-goer will be able to stomach, but a work every caring cinephile should see.
What we have here is a small, delicate mini-masterpiece, and bright new talent behind the camera.
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.
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.
If this focus on fleeting pleasures occasionally risks exoticizing the subject, Mayfair’s sensory approach to illustrating an almost unbearable absence of female fulfillment achieves a powerful universal resonance.
Mayfair's picture feels like the work of a seasoned veteran rather than a newcomer, but this isn't necessarily a compliment. It's sensitively poetic and tremulously delicate to a fault, with every beat seemingly accompanied and underlined by an intrusive score from Ton That An which is heavily freighted with plangent strings and mournful piano notes.
There is much that is finely wrought here as a tactile slice of women’s history told in careful observances, hidden textures and the sights and sounds of nature unbound.