Mayday – from feature debutant Karen Cinorre – is a film full of ideas, although, perhaps too many. It often feels caught between more than one impulse: full of enthusiasm but unsure which way to throw itself. It was a hard sell to producers, claims Cinorre, because of its “untraditional narrative”, but in the next breath she is talking about the “storytelling traditions of myth, poetry, music, and philosophy” that form the basis of the script. Watching the movie is strange because – like its writer/director – it contradicts itself.
The film begins in a kind of patriarchal hell, a world where not all men are bad but some are very (and exclusively) bad. Ana (Grace Van Patten) is working as a waitress at a wedding, but after suffering terribly at the hands of her boss decides to stick her head in an oven. In doing so, she is transported to a fantastical island where a group of young, damaged girls, led by the fierce Marsha (Mia Goth), are conducting an endless war of female vengeance.
It was reminiscent of both of Peter Pan and the early Elliot (formerly Ellen) Page horror film Hard Candy. Overall, it brings real darkness (including references to sexual violence and suicide) to a storyline that alludes to myths but also fairytales and 20th-century children’s literature. The combination gives Mayday an unusual quality that keeps it, for a time, engaging. Unfortunately, as the feature goes on, it gives in to the temptation of convention and becomes less interesting. It is possible to embrace storytelling tropes to create a narrative that does break with tradition and subverts genre. Frozen, for instance, does this to great effect (and with a similar message). This release is not so cohesive. In some ways it is daring, but in others clichéd. Though it does not quite succeed, Mayday is admirable for its attempt to do something different, as well as the sentiment at its heart. But its injection of dark themes into what is essentially a young adult fantasy story makes this reviewer wonder where it will find an audience – sometimes producers are right on that front.
Photo: Tjaša Kalkan
Mayday does not have a UK release date yet.
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