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Third Wedding

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Apr 19, 2019
'Third Wedding'
'Third Wedding'  

Like a Belgian version of "Green Card" with a gay twist, "Third Wedding" tracks the mishaps — but also the growing connection — of a citizen and the immigrant who's looking for a path to a new life via marriage. As in the 1990 comedy, the immigration authorities take some convincing.

In this case, though, it's a gay Belgian named Martin (Bouli Lanners) who is poised to wed the immigrant looking for a better life. The snag? Her name is Tamara (Rachel Mwanza), and not everyone is disposed to buy into Martin's claims of "love at first sight." (In one of the film's most spirited moments the clerk who directs the pair to the proper office at a government building bursts into hysterical laughter the moment they say they intend to wed.)

To be sure, there are other complications. Martin is recently bereaved, having lost his much younger husband, Jan (Benjamin Ramon), in a car crash. We hear that crash, though don't see it, in the film's opening moments, as credits appear against the black screen. The first actual image is that of a room in miniature and Martin's hand placing minute, scale-model furniture. Martin is a set designer, as it turns out; he's also not the sort to mince words, welcoming mourners at Jan's funeral with the observation that there's a bigger turnout for the occasion than there had been for their wedding.

"I thought he had more faults than qualities," Martin goes on to say about his departed spouse. "I don't know how I stayed with him for so long."

It hardly sounds like the love connection of the century, and yet Martin is so lost and sad after losing Jan that he makes a couple of suicide attempts — attempts, that is, that are derailed by mysterious interventions Marin takes to be Jan himself, reaching out from beyond the grave.

If Martin needs a reason not to give up quite yet, he's soon provided with one courtesy of his colleague Norbert (Jean-Luc Couchard), a man with a penchant for foreign women. Norbert's latest obsession is Tamara, who hails from Kinshasa; but Norbert has already married and divorced several immigrant women, and now the authorities are eyeing him too closely for comfort. Therefore, Norbert turns to Martin, offering to help him out with his money problems if Martin will marry Tamara.

It's not a promising match. Tamara turns out to be bossy, given to wheedling and the occasional bout of blackmail. She also has ties to a fellow named Philippe (Eric Kabongo), who shows up at Martin's door claiming to be Tamara's brother — a claim that seems a little suspect given the way the two fall on each other with greedy kisses. Philippe's presence is complicated by the fact that the two immigration agents who keep hounding Martin and Tamara (and peppering them with questions about intimate, if fictitious, details about their supposed life together) have already encountered Philippe and attempted to arrest him.

There's nothing surprising about the film's various twists, turns, and layers of plot, but co-writer/director David Lambert brings a light, saucy touch to the proceedings, while Mwanza and Lanners turn in a complex, nuanced performances that round out and deepen their characters. A late-breaking flirtation with still another sexual connection feels like one too many complications, but the film doesn't spend more time with that particular narrative dead end than it has to, and the wedding ceremony itself (a stripped-down and yet oddly pompous ceremony carried out before a justice of the peace) might be the funniest, cheekiest scene of its sort since Ang Lee's 1993 queer rom-com classic "The Wedding Banquet" — still another fable about gay men and marriages of legal convenience.

As a comedy, "Third Wedding" works just fine, but beneath the surface there's another story going on: One about sympathy and compassion, human frailties, and the ways in which desperation can pull people into strange circumstances.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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