Short Film Review: Three Wheels (2015)

A nostalgic song plays on the radio at night as an old tuk-tuk driver travels lonesomely along the road. He returns home to a dark room. Lights a candle and smokes before laying out his bed and sleeping. He sleeps alone - his wife sleeps on the other bed beside him. It is clear that their relationship lacks a certain intimate warmth. Three Wheels, a short film directed by Neang Kavich depicts the relationship of an old couple married during the Khmer Rouge regime. 

On a chance encounter with a young woman looking for a ride on the rickshaw, the driver is reminded of a young female dancer whom he had met before meeting his wife and was presumably intimate with before. Spurred by his resurfacing memories, the driver decides that he wants to move away.

When he reveals to his wife his want, she tells him that he’s free to go, but she will stay here alone. The relationship between husband and wife is one of familiarity, but not intimacy; perhaps a byproduct of how much time they have spent living with one another. They barely speak to each other, and they don’t share a bed. By the film’s end, things are made clear with a title card that informs us that under the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975 to 1979, many Cambodians were forced into marriage.

Three Wheels is not particularly dramatic or sentimental despite what the narrative may suggest. The film’s beats are understated with shots held long and scenes are let to play out, enhancing the viewers' feel of the space that the characters inhabit and illuminating the ever-constant passage of time in the viewer’s mind as they watch the mundane unfold. There is lingering melancholy that can be found; though the main characters do not live alone, they seemingly live in isolation. Though youth has left them, a part of them still yearns for the past. 

Three Wheels shows us the consequences and effects of an atrocity that removes a human being’s freedom to choose their relationships, and how it can affect people however minute it may seem.  It appears that despite how much time has passed, or how long they have to get used to the situation that they have been thrust into, the stains will continue to persist. It is a sad reality that will take hold until their time’s end.


As part of their fundraising and community engagement initiatives, the Lockdown Cinema Club programmed a one-week screening of selected Southeast Asian short films from 15-22 May. Head here to find out more:

Written by Timothy Ong
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