As Hien’s father lies dying he begins to tell his son about the mother he has never known, but he dies without completing the story. His mother Ly An was ostracized and expelled from her family and village for becoming pregnant outside of marriage and not revealing the name of the father. Hien sets out on a journey to find out where she is and what has happened to her. He discovers that those that knew her have different perceptions of her fate. Ly An’s story is slowly revealed as we hear how the men who encountered her on her journeys through 19th century Vietnam have very different perceptions of who she is. Their retelling of their relationship with her reveals far more about them than it does about Ly An.
This is the first non-state and feminist film to come out of Vietnam, and is an incredible exercise in storytelling. The film shows a very strong attention to both detail and narrative structure. There is so much to learn about this culture both then and now. The rural setting allows us to see a simple society that has shielded itself in a male-dominated religious doctrine and its subjugation of women, that still echoes today. CT