Directed By: Anh Hung Tran
Starring: Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Nhu Quynh Nguyen, Le Khanh
Trivia: The film was shot entirely in Vietnam, in Hanoi and Halong Bay
Director Ahn Hung Tran’s Vertical Ray of the Sun is both a beautiful film and a beautiful experience.
In Hanoi, Vietnam, three sisters are preparing for a banquet in honor of their deceased parents. Suong (Nguyen Nhu Quynh), the eldest sister, owns the small café where the memorial dinner will take place. Khanh (Le Khanh), the middle sister, has recently discovered she’s pregnant, and both she and her husband, Kien (Tran Manh Cuong), are thrilled at the prospect of becoming parents. Their younger sister, Lien (Tran Nu Yen-Khe), is unmarried, and shares an apartment with their brother, Hai (Ngo Quang Hai). All three are dealing with the recent discovery that, years earlier, their mother may have had an extra-marital affair. As they delve deeper into their parents past, each of the sisters finds themselves confronting varying levels of deceit in their own relationships as well.
Every character in Vertical Ray of the Sun is wonderfully expressive, and none more so than the sisters at the center of it all. In one very touching scene, the three of them are lounging in the café, debating whether or not their mother's supposed affair was simply a schoolgirl’s crush. After all, the only evidence pointing to an affair was the fact she uttered another man’s name on her deathbed. Lien, lying with her head on Khan’s lap, believes it was all very innocent. Their parents were too perfectly matched, and there was magic in their relationship. The mood of this scene is one of casual familiarity, enhanced by soft piano music playing just underneath, and conveying both a gentle tone and a mood that is overwhelming. In conjuncture with its well-established characterizations, Vertical Ray of the Sun also boasts an incredible artistic achievement by way of the cinematography of Pin Bing Lee. The film’s exquisite use of imagery, perfectly married to its story of love and deception, brings about a sense of tranquility that is almost hypnotic.
Alive with poetry and the energy of performance, Vertical Ray of the Sun is pure beauty played out over 112 minutes.