Film Review: Tuya's Marriage
The harsh and demanding nomadic lifestyle on the steppes of Mongolia sets the stage for this drama surrounding an agonizing dilemma. Tuya, a capable, hard-working wife and mother, must choose between her love for her husband Bater and her obligation to provide for her family. Bater is no longer able to work due to a leg injury he suffered while digging a well to provide water for the household and livestock, and Tuya herself suffers from a degenerative lumbar disorder. Nevertheless, she still manages to care for her children, Zhaya and Baorao, and does all the back-breaking chores necessary to maintain the livestock.
Fortunately for Tuya, she has an ally in her neighbor Shenge, although she regards him as little more than a hapless pipe-dreamer whose faithless wife is perpetually on the verge of leaving him. Nonetheless, Shenge is ever at the ready to help Tuya haul hay and run errands in town. But Tuya has her pride, and is always reluctant to accept his help. And as things become more dire in Tuya's world, she comes to the realization that she must divorce the man she loves and find herself another husband to provide for her and the children, with the caveat that caring for Bater is part of the deal.
News travels fast on the steppes of Mongolia, and word of their divorce brings a steady parade of suitors who hope to take Bader's place in Tuya's bed. Among them are a teetotaler, an elder who's old enough to be her father, and an oil baron and former classmate from Tuya's high school days. Even the lovelorn Shenge steps up to toss his hat in the ring.
Directed by Qyanan Wang, Tuya's Marriage is one of a growing list of films depicting the traditional way of life in rural Mongolia. This fascinating cultural setting is the perfect venue for kinds of drama that can spring from life's most basic needs, desires, and instincts. And Tuya's is but one of more than two million stories: A simple yet complex portrait of the human condition unfolding on the ancient steppes of modern Mongolia.