Starring: Carmen Machi, Adriana Ozores, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
Director: Patricia Ferreira
Running Time: 99 mins
Thi Mai is a Spanish film about a woman who travels to Vietnam with her two friends to bring home the young girl that her recently deceased daughter was about to adopt.
I enjoyed this film. Although it doesn’t always quite have the story depth or consistency to prove a really engrossing watch, and occasionally strays into acting more like a tourist video for Vietnam than an actual movie, its light-hearted comedy combined with heartwarming drama makes it a pleasant watch throughout, furthered by some great performances that are bound to make you laugh.
Let’s start off with the comedy, which is actually one of the things this film does best. It’s not a riotously funny watch, but it is a film that kept me chuckling on a consistent basis throughout, along with the odd big laugh that I really enjoyed.
The writing here is generally very good, and the best humour comes from watching the characters get into various cultural misunderstandings while over in Vietnam, something that we can all relate to, and as such proves particularly funny.
Along with the screenplay, the performances play a big role in the strong humour throughout, with the three leading ladies doing a great job at bringing energy and comedy to the table. Carmen Machi holds the main dramatic core of the story, but also proves entertaining at times with good, human comedy, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón blends a more rigid character with typical everyday humour, but the real stand-out is Adriana Ozores, who plays the more dim-witted member of the group.
It’s a character that’s often hard to get right, and a completely moronic personality is often more annoying than anything, but Ozores gets the balance between airhead and genuinely likable and sweet personality just right, and that means all of her mishaps and errors are set against a persona that you can understand and still enjoy, meaning that she’s a really funny presence from start to finish.
So, I’m glad to say that Thi Mai is a funny film, and if you’re looking for light-hearted and silly yet still relatable and properly funny comedy, then this is a perfectly satisfying watch from start to finish.
When it comes to the story, things aren’t quite as bulletproof, even though the film is still an engaging and often heartwarming watch. On the positive side, the story gets off to a quick and swift start, with effective character introductions that bring us from Spain to Vietnam very smoothly, grabbing your attention right from the off. What’s more, the story centring on a woman doing everything she can to fulfil her deceased daughter’s wishes, and bring some light to a young Vietnamese girl’s life, is particularly heartwarming, and her determination in trying to do so makes for a very pleasant wach.
On the other hand, there are elements of the plot that don’t work out quite so well. Above all, while the determination to get through all the bureaucracy to bring home this young girl is heartwarming, it isn’t half frustrating to watch a group of people going round and round various offices trying to get permission, only to come across an endless stream of rather repetitive and uninspiring obstacles.
What’s more is that, there are parts of the story that feel like they could be happening anywhere in the world, and the Vietnamese setting just isn’t necessary. At times, the three women go out and about exploring the city and the countryside, and those are by far the most entertaining parts of the movie, combining the great energy of the three leading ladies with the vibrant and manic culture they’re thrown into. However, at others, there’s nothing particular that links the story with Vietnam itself.
What’s worse is that there are times when the film just feels like a tourist advert for Vietnam, including cheesy panoramas of landscapes and bustling city life, as well as one very forced and painful side plot that follows one character going to visit the major tourist attraction of Ha Long Bay, a side story that has very little relevance in the grand scheme of things, something I wasn’t all that impressed by.
Overall, however, I had a lot of fun with Thi Mai. It’s not a perfect film, but thanks to a great, light-hearted sense of humour bolstered by three very energetic central performances, as well as a heartwarming, albeit often flawed story, this is a consistently enjoyable watch from start to finish, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.