May in the Summer

Movies that deal with dysfunctional families are often the basis of goofy romps punctuated by the frequent belly laugh. We all have relatives who drive us up the wall and provide for ridiculous yet grounded situations. While many family comedies go this route on screen, May in the Summer goes a different route, that of realism, grit, and honesty. It is an indie dramedy that reflects many of our base feelings when it comes to our loved ones. It isn’t loud, flashy, or insane. It is simple, genuine, and a mirror of how families actually operate.

Meet May (Cherien Dabis), a confident young woman one month away from getting married. She ventures to Amman, Jordan, where her born-again Christian mother (Hiam Abbass) and her two younger sisters (Alia Shawkat and Nadine Malouf) reside. During the preparation for the upcoming nuptials, May embarks on a very personal journey in which she questions the wedding at all. Her self-discovery is accompanied by at the appearance of a local adventurer (Elie Mitri) and the awkward and forced relationship from her estranged father (Bill Pullman).

May in the Summer is May’s show through and through. Everyone in the cast is there to populate her world, some for the better and sadly, some for the worse. The film follows May as she gets closer and closer to marriage and the relationship she has with her mother is tested and examined. The same can be said about her two sisters, one of whom is a sarcastic sourpuss and the other, a ditsy party girl. Her father, who pops up, wants to get back into his daughters’ lives but this proves difficult because his new wife is barely older than May is. All of these people fill up May’s life and with her wedding plans stressing her out and her family all over the place, things are turning out to be more hectic by the minute.

Writer/director/star Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, Make a Wish) has done an outstanding job with May in the Summer. It tells a serious story in a way that is very easy to digest, filled with powerful emotion, and is at times, really funny. It is an independent dramedy with heart and soul, humor, and Bill Pullman! His being in the film would normally be questioned but it is actually a really welcome casting choice. The man usually ends up in supporting roles and his being in May in the Summer is no exception. He is the divorced father of three Jordanian girls, trying hard to be a part of their lives, a far cry from the adventures of Lone Starr and President Whitmore.

May in the Summer has the makings of a terrific indie dramedy because it has the perfect blend of talented actors, a strong script, and a keen directorial eye. Dabis definitely has a gift when it comes to the three jobs she has taken on here. Writing, directing, and acting are all handled expertly well with May in the Summer. Dabis has the makings of a truly gifted filmmaker and one can only hope that her future projects are as good as this one.

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