Actor Yu Nan holds the reins in Tuya’s Marriage.
TUYA’S MARRIAGE (Wang Quan An). 91 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 22). For venues and times, see film times.
By wedding an unusual and resonant story to restrained direction, Tuya's Marriage succeeds as a quiet, absorbing drama that leaves the audience ample room to think and feel for itself.
An accident on her sheep farm forces Tuya to divorce her disabled husband and go looking for a replacement. She has one non-negotiable condition: the new husband must assume responsibility for the old one.
Director Wang Quan An treats this potentially melodramatic material with near-documentary naturalism, saving his close-ups for key emotional moments and using his shots of Tuya in the harsh Inner Mongolian landscape to underscore the seriousness of her plight. Wang's pace is slow but never sluggish, and though his heroine is sympathetic, he never sentimentalizes her life.
As Tuya, Yu Nan is very good at conveying much while doing almost nothing, thus giving the impression that she's a non-actor coaxed into a performance by a good director. In fact, she's a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy with a string of awards and seven features under her belt, including, most recently, Speed Racer.
In the end, the film resolves its drama but leaves Tuya in a state of tension that you can take as an allegory of China or not. It works either way.