Story"Watching it is like seeing a poem for the eyes." That's how Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert described this exquisite, Oscar-nominated, French-Vietnamese film from 1993, which begins in the 1950s and ends more than a decade later during the early years of the Vietnam war. The story is set almost entirely in a Saigon house where a 10-year-old orphan girl named Mui arrives to work as a servant. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Mui is quietly and carefully observant of everything around her, from the scent of green papaya (hence the title) to the relationship between her employers. The film takes its visual cues from Mui's observations--it's a placid, soothing film that lingers over the physical and emotional details of its setting and story.
What's really astonishing about this beautiful film is that director Anh Tran Hung shot it entirely on a soundstage in Paris, but the sights and sounds are so completely convincing that you'd swear the setting is an actual home in Saigon. This remarkable craftsmanship remains invisible to the viewer, and the seductive progression of the story unfolds with exacting visual precision. It's a film about Mui's growth and development, but also about her benevolent effect on the world around her. As such, it's a movie to savor like no other, life affirming and glorious in the memorable depth of its captivating simplicity. --Jeff Shannon