Laura CliffordIt is a tough life for a woman living in remote Inner Mongolia with a crippled husband, Baoter (Ba Te Er), two children, a meager goat herd and little water. When Tuya (Yu Nan) collapses in the field during a day’s hard labor, she learns that she, too, could end up debilitated and useless with long-term lumbar failure. The little family’s only hope is for the husband and wife to divorce and have her find a new suitor who will care for them all in “Tuya’s Marriage.”
What is it with film’s coming out of Mongolia, lately? We have had, in the past several years, “The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)” and “The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005),” and, now, director/co-writer Quanan Wang’s beautiful drama, “Tuya’s Marriage.” These three films hold much in common with their stories of surviving the harsh, fast encroaching Mongolian desert, vast panoramic views of the austere, yet magnificent, landscape and non-existent budgets that belie the fine film artisanship and solid story telling.
Tuya is no stranger to hard work and she uncomplainingly takes to heart her role as the family’s sole provider. But, that hard work has taken its toll on her and her decision to divorce and remarry is based on practicality. Although she and Baoter are no longer married, she still resolves to care for him or let the suitors be damned. Things appear to take a positive turn when a wealthy oilman, Tuya’s childhood friend, agrees to her terms almost. Things end in near tragedy.
Meanwhile, Tuya has had a long time platonic friendship with Shenge (Sen Ge), a man who has been cuckolded more than once (much more) by his selfish, uncaring wife. Shenge has secretly been in love with Tuya but, since both are married, has always behaved properly. When his wife leaves him yet again, Shange vows to complete excavation of the water well that lost Baoter his legs. Doing so, he discreetly announces his intentions toward Tuya and that he will get divorced. The love story that ensues is quite touching.
The wonderfully complex screenplay, by Wang and Wei Lu, is leavened and livened with drama, romance, humor and the stalwart integrity of the hearty Mongolians. The feeling of life on the steppe is carried forth with precision as we see the traditional ways being overwhelmed by modern technology. This clash of cultures is handled with great good humor in one scene, in particular, when two sets of suitors cross paths to in their quest to woo Tuya.
I am always amazed by the craft and quality of the films that emanate from such remote places as the rugged mountains of Iran and the vast remoteness of Mongolia. It shows the dedication of filmmakers like Quanan Wang who are able to put forth their vision with what would be a mere pittance in Hollywood. Tuya’s Marriage” is a poster child promoting quality independent film from abroad. I give it a B+.
Laura gives "Tuya's Marriage" an A-.
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