'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices

It is not often that a movie keeps you on the edge of your seat while reducing you repeatedly to tears.This is what “Thưa mẹ con đi” (Goodbye, mother) did to me.

Vietnam and LGBT rights: Making strides
LGBT community in Vietnam’s path to recognition
Same-sex weddings officially permitted in Vietnam

'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices
TENDER: The love of Van (Lanh Thanh - left) and Ian (Gia Huy - right) is portrayed in their most everyday light in the movie. Photos courtesy of Trinh Dinh Le Minh

It was funny at first, and then it ran the gamut of human emotions – love, happiness, anger, disappointment – in a way that did not strive to be dramatic, but was naturally and authentically poignant.

This, for me, is this film’s greatest strength and its director’s greatest success.

“Thưa mẹ con đi” is a true indie film that carries a simplicity and directness that the Vietnamese film industry seems to lack these days. It is the debut of Trinh Dinh Le Minh, who studied film direction at the University of Texas, US. He has done a few short films before, but this is his first full-length feature film.

The story and the plot are straightforward.

Van (played by Lanh Thanh) a family’s first grandson, and his boyfriend Ian (played by Vo Dien Gia Huy), return to Việt Nam from the US for a family reunion.

It helps the visuals a lot that the reunion takes place in the countryside of southwestern Vietnam with its signature beautiful landscapes: bright green gardens, vast rice fields, long village roads and small bridges crossing rivers.

'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices
PEACEFUL: The story takes place in the countryside of southwestern Vietnam with its signature beautiful landscapes.

A family of three generations stays in a big house in this sylvan setting, and here, Van struggles to tell his family about his relationship with Ian.

In a country where traditional Confucian values still hold strong and demand social conformity, Van’s mother, the main breadwinner of the family, hopes he would soon get married and bear her some grandchildren. And she makes no bones of her desire.

Faced with this barrage of expressly expressed wishes of his mother, Van hesitates to tell her the truth.

Meanwhile, Ian, born and raised in the States, is not just sad, but also mad at Van for his reluctance in coming out and being open about their love for each other, but outward normalcy is maintained.

Things change in the second half of the movie, when Văn’s mother finds out the truth accidentally.

As a typical Vietnamese woman living in the countryside, she is let down.

Played by veteran actress Hong Dao, the mother’s role is actually the highlight of the film. The sensitive woman silently observes and feels the affection between her son and Ian. But as a Vietnamese woman who has grown up with traditions and traditional expectations, it weighs heavily on her, and she chooses to remain silent.

'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices
TOUCHING PORTRAYAL: Veteran actress Hong Dao (first left) is the highlight of the movie.
 

She tries to persuade Van to marry a girl living nearby. She forces Van to tell everyone about his future plan as a “normal man” at a family party. But she is torn. She doesn’t talk much about her feelings in the film, but her eyes carry the burden of social conformity very eloquently.

'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices
CAPTIVATING CHARACTER: Van's grandmother, played by actress Le Thien, puts a smile on everyone's face whenever she appears on screen.

Then, the director pushes things along.

Ian gets beaten by Van’s cousin and his friends for being gay. That’s the couple’s first bitter taste of the injustice of stigma. It’s also an indication that even today, there’s not enough empathy and equality for the LGBT community in Vietnam, despite the hugely progressive step of lifting a ban on same-sex marriages in 2015.

Van, who’s been afraid to come out, and who is so gentle and loving in caring for the injured Ian, can totally become an enraged person when facing his cousin, the bully, and punches him.

And when the cousin’s mother rushes out and insults Văn by calling him “bê đê” (a pejorative term for gay men), it is Văn’s mother who steps in and stands by him.

It seems that when she recognises that Van is able to competently handle a world that stigmatises homosexuality, she’s reassured and is even proud of his courage and resilience.

'Goodbye Mother' embraces, bids farewell to prejudices
WORKING HARD: Director Trinh Dinh Le Minh (third from left, sitting) directs a film shot.

Moved to tears

I cried many times during the movie: when Ian gets beaten, when Van cleans Ian’s injuries, when Van cries lying on his mother’s bed, touching her toes and begging for acceptance.
But at one point, my tears came even before the scene reached its climax.

Van’s mother opens Ian’s gift for her before they return to the US. It’s a beautiful, white pearl necklace. The camera zooms to her face as the tears flow from her eyes, joining mine.

There was so much love, so much understanding, so much acceptance, so much humanity in that scene. It seems to me that the mother now truly understands how much Van and Ian were in love, how much Ian cares for Van, and how much she wants her child to be happy. For me, it was the most powerful, heartwarming, touching depiction of mother and son bonding, of how truly interconnected they are throughout the coming out process. For me, it was beautiful family love.

The movie also does a great job of showing LGBT in a normal light: there was nothing over-sexually visually, it felt honest, sweet and beautiful even in its sheer ordinariness. It’s not the most thrilling ride in the park, but it was this vanilla, sex-less yet deeply sensitive portrayal of gay relationships.

Without revealing more details and going into its shortcomings, which more qualified critics can enumerate, I can say confidently that this is a movie that is, ultimately, a reaffirming one.
On the face of it, there seems to be no need to reaffirm the strong bond between a mother and her child, or between two people who love each other, but there are times we do need the reaffirmation.

by Thu Van

VNS

 
 

Other News

.
Vietnam’s culture, coastal life impresses Russian audience
Vietnam’s culture, coastal life impresses Russian audience
VIETNAM & WORLDicon  22/07/2020 

A photo exhibition themed ‘travelling Vietnam through photos’ opened in Moscow on July 21, introducing the charm of the Southeast Asian nation with a focus on culture and coastal life to Russian audience.

Opening time for Hue Festival 2020 adjusted
Opening time for Hue Festival 2020 adjusted
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  22/07/2020 

The Hue Festival 2020 will open on August 26 this year, two days earlier than the previously-decided date of August 28, the festival organising board said on July 21.

“Light Gate” wins first prize in “Kilometre Zero landmark” design contest
“Light Gate” wins first prize in “Kilometre Zero landmark” design contest
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

 “Light Gate” by Pham Trung Hieu, Pham Thai Binh, Vu Binh Minh, Pham Huy Dong and Nguyen Dang Hai from Hanoi won the first prize in a contest to design the “Kilometre Zero landmark” - 

Beauty queens gather for fashion show by designer Hoang Hai
Beauty queens gather for fashion show by designer Hoang Hai
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

A large number of beauty queens took part in a fashion show recently held by renowned designer Hoang Hai to mark the return of the fashion industry in the post COVID-19 period.

Trang wins national table tennis champs
Trang wins national table tennis champs
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

Mai Hoang My Trang triumphed in the 38th National Table Tennis Championships which concluded in HCM City over the weekend.

Several sports dropped from upcoming SEA Games 31 schedule
Several sports dropped from upcoming SEA Games 31 schedule
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

Up to 20 sports will not take place during the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which Vietnam is scheduled to host next year, according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Design contest seeks regenerated products
Design contest seeks regenerated products
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

The Designed by Vietnamese contest with the theme of 'Regeneration' for designers nationwide is now calling for applications until the end of August 28.

Vitality of Vietnamese ancient costumes
Vitality of Vietnamese ancient costumes
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

Designer Nguyen Duc Loc has been in love with ancient Vietnamese costumes for a long time. He has devoted much effort to restoring and introducing the traditional beauty of these costumes to the public, especially to the younger generations.

Children’s book fair opens at HCMC book street
Children’s book fair opens at HCMC book street
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

The second HCM City Book Fair for Children to promote the habit of reading among young people is being held on HCM City's Pedestrian Book Street till July 26.

Three on three basketball hits central Hanoi
Three on three basketball hits central Hanoi
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

If the legendary founder of Hanoi King Ly Thai To didn’t know how to crossover his opponent, step back and drill a three-pointer before this weekend, he does now.

HCM City history museum launches tuong performances
HCM City history museum launches tuong performances
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

A new art programme offering tuong or hat boi (classical drama) has just been launched at the HCM City Museum of History as part of the museum’s efforts to introduce Vietnamese culture and theatre to visitors.

Colourful costumes of ethnic groups in northern Vietnam
Colourful costumes of ethnic groups in northern Vietnam
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

The northern province of Lao Cai is home to a large number of culturally rich and diverse ethnic minorities groups. 

Theatre offers drama training for children in summer
Theatre offers drama training for children in summer
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

Children in HCM City are encouraged to join training courses in performance skills launched by the Small Theatre, a leading private theatre, this summer. 

Coronavirus: China's cinemas start to reopen after shutdowns
Coronavirus: China's cinemas start to reopen after shutdowns
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

The country is the second largest film market in the world after the US, with a box office of $9.2bn in 2019.

Man captures Saigon memories in palm-sized miniatures
Man captures Saigon memories in palm-sized miniatures
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

A Vietnamese man has touched the hearts of those who love Saigon - the former name of HCM City - by his wooden miniatures facsimileing the city in his memories. Join us to contemplate the fascinating artworks.

Exploring the shapes of sound
Exploring the shapes of sound
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  21/07/2020 

Having performed in countries such as Russia, Poland, Germany, Norway, Italy, the UK and the US, critically-acclaimed pianist Nguyen Bich Tra has been described as “sophisticated and unique” (Rheinpfalz Zeitung)

Arts exhibition connects Vietnamese painters nationwide
Arts exhibition connects Vietnamese painters nationwide
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  19/07/2020 

A total of 60 paintings created by 11 members of an arts club based across the country have gone on show at the Fine Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

'Sound of Hope' resounds from ambassadors of music
'Sound of Hope' resounds from ambassadors of music
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  19/07/2020 

The Hanoi Old Quarter Management Board recently came together with the Vietnamese Dinh Lang Club to host a special arts programme featuring visually-impaired singers.

HCM City in urgent need of public art space
HCM City in urgent need of public art space
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

Installation of art in public places in Vietnam is essential to the development of smart cities and their cultural life, Ho Chi Minh City’s artists and cultural experts have said.

Vietnamese movie to be screened at Locarno Film Festival
Vietnamese movie to be screened at Locarno Film Festival
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  20/07/2020 

The Unseen River directed by Pham Ngoc Lan will be internationally premiered at the Pardi di domani shorts competition of the Locarno Film Festival which will be held from August 5-15.

. Latest news
     
     
     
    Leave your comment on an article

    OR QUICK LOGIN