Sometimes it’s better not to hear anything about a film before viewing. All I’d heard about Mail Order Wife was that it was a documentary that followed one man’s decision to buy a wife from a third world country. It ended up that was the equivalent of saying “War and Peace” is a little novel about fighting battles.American men who order wives have been portrayed as those who by American standards are working class schlubs but in other countries resemble kings. Adrian Martin (Adrian Martinez) is no different. He lives in a modest house in Queens, NY, drives an old El Dorado, and works as a doorman.
Not exactly the catch of the day.
He doesn’t have the money to actually pay for his wife, but that is given to him by the filmmakers in exchange for his participation in the movie. He picks his wife Lichi out of a catalog from a local “matchmaking agency,” and three months later, Lichi is on her way to America to live happily ever after.
From the start, Adrian demonstrates why he’s single. No sooner does she arrive home than he has her scrubbing the toilet and learning to cook his favorite chili recipe. He feels no guilt for treating her like a slave, because it’s still better than what she’s lived through to this point in her life.
Without giving too much away, this film transcends from “very good” to “great” in all of its incredible details and fine touches. The photographs of happy couples who met through the agency, the shaving scene reminiscent of the Roman Empire, the Filmmaker being honored to speak at his alma mater in front of an eager crowd, the pigs, and so many other points blanket this film with extreme quirkiness in the truest sense of the word.
It carried on at a good, steady pace, and every time I thought I'd seen it all, another curve was thrown in for good measure. There's a great amount of material within this film, sometimes going from funny to shocking and back again within just a few moments.
A great deal of thought and planning must have gone into this film as no stone is left unturned, no point left unpondered.Mail Order Wife cleverly dances along the line of truth being stranger than fiction, and doesn’t miss a beat. I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this film before, and probably will never see one like it again.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.