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The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000)
"Mua he chieu thang dung" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  24 May 2000 (France)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 2,812 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 49 user | 49 critic | 21 from Metacritic.com

With the brilliant Vietnamese summer as a setting Vertical Ray of the Sun is beautiful from beginning to end. The plot centres around three sisters, two of whom are happily married (or so ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tran Nu Yên-Khê ...
Lien
Nhu Quynh Nguyen ...
Suong
Le Khanh ...
Khanh
Quang Hai Ngo ...
Hai
Chu Hung ...
Quoc
Manh Cuong Tran ...
Kien
Tuân Anh Lê ...
Tuan
Ngoc Dung Le ...
Huong
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Doan Viet Ha
Long Le Vu
Aidan Nguyen
Anh Tuan
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Storyline

With the brilliant Vietnamese summer as a setting Vertical Ray of the Sun is beautiful from beginning to end. The plot centres around three sisters, two of whom are happily married (or so it appears). The youngest sister is single and living with her cute older brother, whom she is desperately in love with. A second sister is married to a man who has another woman and child elsewhere whom he loves just as much as his wife -with a few conditions, she agrees to carry on with the marriage. The third sister and her husband are overjoyed to discover she is pregnant, and though he is tempted, her husband remains loyal to her. Charming, slow-paced, face value, family saga film. Written by K Wedgwood

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

One day. Many lives. A family. Lovers. An eternity. A hope. A delay. A secret. Happiness. Lies. One summer.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sex-related material | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

24 May 2000 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Vertical Ray of the Sun  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$29,339 (USA) (6 July 2001)

Gross:

$455,187 (USA) (21 December 2001)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in At the Movies: Venice Film Festival 2010 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Nang Thuy Tinh
Written by Cong Son Trinh
Performed by Vu Tranh Xuan and Nguyen Quang
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User Reviews

 
Bathed in color and pastoral beauty
14 February 2005 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

In Tran Anh Hung's lovely tone poem The Vertical Ray of the Sun, three sisters Lien (Tran Nu Yên-Khê), Suong (Nhu Quynh Nguyen), and Khanh (Le Lhanh) on the eve of memorial dinners for their departed parents reveal previously hidden details to each other about their marital infidelity. It is the end of summer in Hanoi and the atmosphere is languid. These are not the mean streets of Saigon in Tran's Cyclo but the elegant abode of Hanoi's artists and intellectuals, devoid of urban decay, intimately bathed in color and pastoral beauty. The opening scene sets the mood. The youngest sister, 19-year old Lien slowly awakens in the apartment she shares with her brother Hai (Quang Hai Ngo). As Hai does push-ups, lien stretches, her graceful Tai Chi movements beautifully choreographed to the rhythm of The Velvet Underground.

They joke about the fact that outsiders see them as a couple as they walk hand-in-hand through the markets, but Lien does nothing to discourage this perception and is shown crawling into bed with her brother each night. The sisters operate a café and the conversation is as steamy as is the food they are preparing for the annual memorial dinner for their departed mother. Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin who filmed Flowers of Shanghai and In the Mood for Love washes the scene in a glow of different shades of green as they joke and tell stories about their longing to fry the male anatomy in garlic. The discussion veers to a discussion of their mother's possible infidelity with a fellow student but they are reluctant to admit that their parent's relationship may have been less than ideal.

Gradually we also learn about the sisters' marital problems. Suong is married to Quoc (Chu Hung), a botanical photographer. Since they had a miscarriage four years prior, he has had a secret life with another woman in the remote Bay of Halong. In one meditative scene in a boat with an old fisherman, Quoc sums up the meaning of the film, "One should live where one's soul is in harmony, where it is in accord with its surroundings". When he is away on trips visiting his second family, Suong carries on an affair with Tuan (Le Tuen Anh) out of a need to feel loved and wanted. Khanh's husband is Kien (Tran Manh Cuong), a writer who is working on finishing his first novel.

After finding out that his wife is pregnant, he almost betrays her in a Saigon hotel, but remains faithful. Lien, meanwhile, naive about sexuality, has a boyfriend and thinks she is pregnant simply because she had sex one time. The family deals with these problems together, viewing them as an opportunity for forgiveness and growth rather than confrontation. Vertical Ray of the Sun is a sensual experience that unfolds in its own time, a pace geared to an Asian timetable not a Western one. It is a film of ineffable beauty but can be confusing on first viewing with multiple characters, frequent jump cuts, and time discontinuity.

Individual scenes stand out in memory: Khanh singing a traditional Vietnamese song alone in the garden and Kien's loving discovery of her secret (how gratifying it is to see a romantic scene between married couples); Lien's slow dance in her apartment to The Velvet Underground, her long black hair glistening in the sun; and Lien's playful seduction of Hai interrupted by his request for boiled sweet potatoes. Though concerned with extra marital affairs, the film is not about infidelity but the intrusive effects of modern society on Asian family life. In Vertical Ray of the Sun, he has created an antidote -- an aesthetic picture of a Vietnam unsullied by the memory of war, a culture of nature and tradition, encompassing the Buddhist value of compassion and the Confucian ideal of harmony. It may exist, however, only in his vision.


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