×

The Little Heart

Highlighting a problem that's far too common in Vietnam and many other countries, "The Little Heart" is an affecting meller about an innocent girl from the sticks who's tricked into sexual slavery in Saigon.

With:
With: Do Nguyen Lan Ha, Hong Kim Hanh, Hong Anh, Pham Van Tuyen, Maika, Nguyen Tieu Hoa, Tran Bich Hang, Nguyen Xuan Thannh, Vo Thanh Tien, Nguyen Hau. (Vietnamese dialogue)

Highlighting a problem that’s far too common in Vietnam and many other countries, “The Little Heart” is an affecting meller about an innocent girl from the sticks who’s tricked into sexual slavery in Saigon. Anchored by Do Nguyen Lan Ha’s moving perf, pic packs enough emotional punch to overcome occasionally bumpy plotting. Frankly spoken but never sexually explicit, fourth feature by helmer Nguyen Thanh Van (“Sandy Lives”) picked up director and actress gongs at Vietnam’s Golden Kite awards. Slim export potential and strong fest legs are indicated. Local release is pending.

Based on a story that grabbed national media attention, pic opens in a coastal fishing village in Quang Binh, a central province where the modernization under way in many parts of Vietnam is little in evidence and the arrival of a TV can still spark a buzz of excitement in the neighborhood.

The eldest daughter of a mother driven to drink by her abusive and unfaithful husband, 17-year-old Mai (Nguyen) seeks refuge in the sand dunes, where she’s romanced by nice boy Den (Pham Van Tuyen) with nothing more than handstands and sweet smiles.

Popular on Variety

Assuming responsibility for rescuing her family’s ailing finances, Mai approaches Thom (Nguyen Tieu Hoa), a local money lender and Mrs. Fix-it, about taking sewing lessons in Saigon (location is never referred to as Ho Chi Minh City). In a jolting narrative leap, the girl is almost instantly delivered to a riverside brothel run by an icy madam (Tran Bich Hang).

With no idea where she is or what she’s supposed to do, Mai gets the picture when Uncle Hai (Nguyen Hau) pays big money for her to be fattened up to his liking. Much is made of Mai supposedly being untouchable at this point, but the girl is soon put to work.

Film’s theme of innocence destroyed is memorably etched onto the changing face of Mai. Relative unknown Nguyen excels at the task of transforming the naive country girl into a hardened sex worker who’s kept under lock and key.

Crucially, the glimmer of hope never disappears from Mai’s eyes and ignites when she discovers her younger sister Minh (Hong Kim Hanh) is also planning to enroll in Thom’s “sewing lessons.” Despite narrative hitches like an AIDS-related development being awkwardly tacked on, story draws to a tense climax.

Support perfs are on the mark and technical presentation is first rate. Pristine lensing by Nguyen Huu Tuan applies a warm palette to rural images and a slightly harsher one to Saigon-set scenes. English subtitles could use another spelling and grammar check.

The Little Heart

Vietnam

Production: A Vietnam Media Corp. presentation of a Vietnam Feature Film Studios production, in association with Blue Production, Global Film Initiative. (International sales: Vietnam Media Corp., Hanoi.) Produced by Co Khac Ung. Executive producer, Le Duc Tien. Directed by Nguyen Thanh Van. Screenplay, Nguyen Quang Lap.

Crew: Camera (color), Nguyen Huu Tuan; editor, Hoang Thi Dinh; music, Quoc Trung; production designers, Vu Huy, Nguyen Trung Phan; sound (stereo), Banh Bac Hai. Reviewed at Bangkok Film Festival (Southeast Asian, competing ), Sept. 27, 2008. (Also in Montreal World, Hamburg, Hawaii film festivals.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Do Nguyen Lan Ha, Hong Kim Hanh, Hong Anh, Pham Van Tuyen, Maika, Nguyen Tieu Hoa, Tran Bich Hang, Nguyen Xuan Thannh, Vo Thanh Tien, Nguyen Hau. (Vietnamese dialogue)

More Film

  • Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia

    Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia Jones Starrer 'Coda' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pathé has closed major pre-sales on Sian Heder’s anticipated film “Coda,” starring Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez and Marlee Matlin, after unveiling an exclusive promo reel of the film at EFM. An English-language remake of the French smash hit “La Famille Belier,” “Coda” is being produced by Philippe Rousselet and Fabrice Gianfermi at Vendôme Group, alongside [...]

  • 'H Is for Happiness' Review

    'H Is for Happiness': Film Review

    More often than not, “A” festival competitions privilege the arty over the entertaining, so hats off to the Berlinale Generation section, where the two qualities frequently coexist. A case in point: the delightful coming-of-age dramedy “H Is for Happiness,” which provides feel-good entertainment for the entire family without pandering — and definitely without sacrificing style [...]

  • 'Jinpa' Review

    ‘Jinpa’: Film Review

    After roaming for more than a year on the international festival circuit, “Jinpa” — the latest effort from Tibetan director Pema Tseden (“Old Dog,” “Tharlo”) — has finally launched a limited run in U.S. art houses, where it might find an appreciative if occasionally perplexed audience for its idiosyncratic mix of deadpan wit and understated [...]

  • Clarisse-Goulart

    Projeto Paradiso Fights for Brazilian Film Industry

    BERLIN — Having slowed incentives to a near halt this year, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s government looks set to decimate film funding in 2020. Brazil’s industry is bracing – and fighting back. On Sunday, at Berlin, Projeto Paradiso, a philanthropic organization, announced a Sao Paulo Forum, New Business Models for a New Audiovisual Era, and [...]

  • The Journey

    Saudi Animation Feature 'The Journey' Secures Distribution in MENA and Japan

    Animation feature “The Journey,” co-produced by Saudi animation studios Manga Productions and Japan’s Toei Animation, has struck a deal with Dubai-based exhibitor Vox Cinemas for theatrical distribution across the Middle East and North Africa. Manga has also announced that the toon epic based on Saudi folklore and directed by Japan’s Shizuno Kobun (“Godzilla: City on the [...]

  • The Suspended Mourning

    Berlin: Hernan Caffiero Sets Up Two Series About Victims of Police Violence as Chilean Industry Protests Brutality (EXCLUSIVE)

    Inspired by the victims of violent crackdowns by Chilean police, filmmaker Hernán Caffiero is looking to tell their story. Caffiero is currently developing two series about human rights crimes and the effects of police brutality in Chile, one a four-part documentary, the other a follow-up to his Intl. Emmy-winning “The Suspended Mourning,” a dramatized collection [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content