Sundance 2013: “May in the Summer” Review by MovieManMenzel

A surprisingly sweet and well made indie dramedy.

May (Cherien Dabis) is a bride-to-be who seems to have the perfect life. She is engaged to the sweetest man and is the author of a very popular book. When May returns home to Jordan to visit her family, she begins to be tormented by her Mother who doesn’t want her to marry a Muslim as well as her sisters who have their own issues that they are dealing with. If that isn’t enough, May also learns that her father (Bill Pullman) has remarried and is trying to rekindle their relationship. With all this going on, May soon begins to question her own relationship Ziad as he never seem to be around. A story of life, family, and all that comes with it ensues…

There were one of two films that I could have seen as the opening night film here at Sundance 2013 and I picked May in the Summer over Who is Dayani Cristal? Based on the reaction from the buzz I heard floating around the festival, I made the better choice. While I wouldn’t say that May in the Summer is a film that is ground-breaking by any means, it is definitely a quiet little indie flick with good acting, a decent although predictable story, and some beautiful direction from the film’s star, writer, and director Cherien Dabis.

The film tackles several story lines within its 100 minute run-time. It tackles cheating husbands, family struggles, and even coming out as a lesbian. The film ultimately is extremely touching and rather engaging to the audience. I loved the story-line with the mother and what Dabis did with the character. At first you think that she is just a woman who just doesn’t believe in anything outside her religion but as the film goes on you learn that isn’t quite the case at all. In fact, the conflict with the mother and May was probably one of the strongest elements of the film.

Outside of Dabis as the lead, you had a great supporting cast including Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat, and Nadine Malouf to name a few of the other faces within the film. Out of all these characters, I found that Alia Shawkat was probably the best of the bunch. I really like how her character was portrayed the more rebellious one and also found that she delivered some of the most comical lines within the film. I also enjoyed Bill Pullman as May’s deadbeat father who made a lot of mistakes in his life including cheating on May’s mother and also just abandoning May and her sisters. There is a scene where May and Bill are discussing their lives at a restaurant, which ultimately ends with the question “Are you Happy?” I found this scene to be very powerful and moving.

With all the positives in the film there are a few negatives, the film itself is nothing new and by the festival end, I probably will forget a lot of it. The story is also at times predictable and some scenes do lag on a bit. There are some moments that you don’t see coming but again this isn’t the type of film that blows you out of the water. Its a really decent dramedy and one film that I feel will be more appealing to female rather than men.

All in All, I cant say that I loved May in the Summer but I was rather satisfied with the film as a whole. It left me feeling hopeful and upbeat about life and I liked how May was a strong female lead that thought for herself. While its not going to win any awards for originally, the story is still engaging enough and does a really good job mixing a bunch of story-lines together. It’s nice to see a movie that is more than a girl reevaluating her life. I think that film-maker Cherien Dabis is one to key an eye on and I think while this film won’t be a huge hit, it will definitely be a film that many who see it find it delightful.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for May in the Summer is a 6.5 out of 10

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