Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Jul 6, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - Germany, France, Vietnam  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Tom Wiener

Yes, it's ravishing to look at, but Tran Anh Hung's follow-up to Cyclo and The Scent of Green Papaya is dramatically impoverished. The three sisters whose stories are told here are much less self-aware than Anton Chekhov's siblings. The stately pace of the scenes, some set to the music of the the Velvet Underground or Lou Reed, allow the viewer to linger on the visuals -- color-saturated interiors, cascading sheets of dark hair, and bodies draped languorously over one another -- to the exclusion of any serious involvement in the fates of the characters, who come off as either willfully stupid or just naïve. The suggestion is that these women are adrift following the death of their mothers, but that subtext isn't presented with much conviction. In what might have been the emotional climax to the story, the youngest sister's pregnancy revelation turns out to be a false alarm that allows the other two to conveniently ignore the middle sister's previous revelation of pregnancy and her husband's infidelity. Only a nighttime conversation between the two oldest sisters about a past indiscretion pulls the kind of emotional weight that nearly every other scene in the film should have.