The Teardrop Pearl
1995 Directed by Tran Vu, Nguyen Huu Phan. Starring Ha Thu, Thu Ha, Quyen Linh, Hong Son, Trinh Thinh.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 28, 1995
An unapologetically sappy melodrama from Vietnam, The Teardrop Pearl has a wonderfully teasing atmosphere that, at its best, pulses with the common rhythms of daily life and, at its worst, offers up a sluggish narrative that wastes much precious time before moving to the next angst-filled dip on its emotional roller coaster. Luckily, much of the picture is genuinely affecting, making the slower moments unfortunate, but forgivable, blemishes in an otherwise poignant love story. The movie tells the simple tale of two young lovers -- A-Chau (Ha Thu), a woman of Chinese decent, and Quang, a poor Vietnamese fisherman (Quyen Linh) -- who are cast out from their respective communities when they decide to marry outside their cultural boundaries. That's only the beginning of their troubles, as the pair must face a jealous, would-be suitor, adjust to life after being more or less cut off from the outside world, and contend with a border dispute that winds up forcing them apart. Will true love prevail? The Teardrop Pearl is, for the most part, a nicely effective tearjerker -- well acted, charming, and directed with both humor and pathos by Tran Vu and Nguyen Huu Phan. Some scenes -- like the underwater discovery and subsequent explanation of the titular pearl and its significance -- are nothing less than magical, but in a refreshingly everyday kind of way. Some critics have pegged the picture as an Asian Romeo and Juliet, but it's certainly not a tragedy. And while the several important historical events that are woven into the story do add some dramatic resonance, they don't necessarily point toward any greater political significance. Nope, The Teardrop Pearl is just a modest little romance that manages to engross without ever getting too manipulative with its heart-tugging, and it's this dedication to both its drama and its characters that gives the movie its charm. The Teardrop Pearl is a sweet, pleasant, and wholly unpretentious diversion that was named the Best Picture of 1994 by the Vietnam Motion Picture Association.