Cinema Review: May In The Summer | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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May In The Summer

Studio: Cohen Media Group
Directed by Cherien Dabis

Aug 25, 2014 Web Exclusive
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May in the Summer has all the hallmarks of a dysfunctional, pre-nuptial family gathering – a disapproving mother, atoning father, quarrelsome sisters, secrets and pre-wedding jitters – but unfortunately lacks the emotional depth for a satisfying resolution.

After her successful book tour, Arab-American writer May Brennan (director Cherien Dabis in her acting debut) returns to Jordan, wedding dress in hand. Instead of glowing, May shifts between listlessness and stiff composure before the plane even touches down. Waiting for May are her sisters, Dalia (Alia Shawkat) and Yasmine, both at professional low points: Yasmine was fired from her job while Dalia dropped out of massage school. Their mother Nadine (Hiam Abbass), a devote Christian who is still bitter about her divorce, disapproves of May’s Muslim fiancée Ziad, and refuses to attend the wedding. Added to the mix are the girls’ estranged father Edward (Bill Pullman), along with his young and insecure wife. Everyone is hiding something, and the household is soon reduced to adolescent spying, prying, and drawers-rummaging into the one another’s secrets, all the while incapable of admitting the truth to themselves.

Hiam Abbass’s performance as Nadine is wonderful; her furious objection toward Ziad flashes between anti-Muslim sentiment and those of a woman whose own happiness has been betrayed. May and Nadine’s tension-filled interactions are the film’s most gripping moments, as both strong-headed woman feel the need to stand their ground yet simultaneously seek the other’s love and approval. It is unfortunate that May’s relationship with Ziad – the foundation of the film - feels as unreal and distant as Ziad’s disembodied voice over the phone. Neither their closeness (there’s a brief mention of Ziad’s support for May’s writing) nor their problems (a lack of wedding planning enthusiasm) seem genuine, which undermines all of May’s brooding over Amman’s sloping landscape, as well as the film’s resolution.

Author rating: 4/10

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