"Longing," according to Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, "is the feminine side of love, the cup that wants to be filled." It is a state of being open to possibility and to the future. It is a quest that animates us and carries us into our most strenuous endeavors. Three Seasons, written and directed by Tony Bui, is the first American film to be shot in Vietnam since the war. It is an extraordinary cross-cultural masterpiece shining with incredible images, a keen sense of place, and a reverence for the incredible yearning of ordinary people.
Young Kien An (Nguyen Ngoc Hiep) is hired to pick white lotuses for Teacher Dao (Tran Manh Cuong), a reclusive poet who has lost his face and fingers to leprosy. Inspired by a song she sings that he remembers from his youth, he accepts her offer to transcribe his poems. Her yearning for meaning is fulfilled in this project.
Hai (Don Duong), a cyclo driver, is infatuated by Lan (Zoe Bui), a prostitute who meets her rich customers in Saigon's fanciest hotels. Driving her home at night, he yearns to give her the love he believes she deserves. Using the proceeds from winning a cyclo race, Hai buys an evening with her. His tenderness unleashes the deep emotions hidden in her hardened heart.
James Hager (Harvey Keitel) is an American who has returned to Vietnam 30 years after he fought there in the war. He is searching for a daughter he left behind. Chain smoking outside the Apocalypse Now Bar, he yearns for some kind of closure, some way to make amends for the actions of his past.
Meanwhile, Woody (Nguyen Huu Duoc), a street kid, yearns just to survive. When Hager invites him into the bar, he sees it as a chance to sell some of the watches, lighters, and other trinkets he carries around in a suitcase. But during a blackout, the case disappears, along with Hager. Woody begins a desperate search to find them.
Three Seasons is the most breathtaking and exotic film of 1999 with its sense-luscious portrait of a country in transition. Writer and director Tony Bui accomplishes this feat by telling the stories of four very different individuals whose yearning for meaning, love, redemption, and survival matches the mood of a nation slowly coming back to life after years of carnage.