So, May is definitely one of the weirdest films I have seen for the first time recently, horror or otherwise. It’s my second film watched from the director Lucky McKee, who also directed 2011’s The Woman, a film that I was less than impressed with. However, there are so many interesting things going on with May that have forced me to avoiding writing off the director completely. It’s a really uncomfortable watch, in more ways than one. It’s also the type of film that I found myself growing onto, as I found that I really didn’t get immersed into the material until a little more than halfway through the narrative. Nonetheless, once the film reeled me in, I was completely enthralled with what I was watching.
Our titular protagonist is probably one of the most non-conventionally awkward female protagonists. She’s played wonderfully by Angela Bettis, who instills such a distinct personality in her character, one that almost feels embarrassing to watch. It makes her plight all the more believable, though – it isn’t hard to imagine such a peculiar individual not having very many friends or acquaintances. In an odd way, this even makes her all the more sympathetic, a trait that makes it an even more uncomfortable watch given her acts of desperation in the latter third of the film.
At first, May is, in many ways, more of an unusual character study than it is a horror film. We are witnesses to her heedless attempts at flirting and dating a young man with whom she becomes enamored through his attractive hands. Once again, these scenes are such a remarkably uncomfortable watch; almost as if viewers’ roles as voyeurs are acts of sadism themselves. Because these moments are also a bit tedious, the viewing experience itself is a bit excruciating, especially if one was expecting it to be something along the lines of a typical horror film, with scares and all.
However, even on this front, May does not fall short. Throughout the entirety of the narrative, even the mundane parts, there remains a sense of uneasiness, a dreadful feeling that something isn’t quite all that it seems. May’s attachment to her childhood doll brings much of this to the forefront and it isn’t until the film progresses to a certain point when viewers become well-aware of the significance of this story element. Frequently, there are moments – tiny, seemingly trivial moments – when tidbits of horror are brought into scenes of everyday living, and it isn’t until later when it becomes apparent that such moments are, in fact, foreshadowing what’s to come. I’m being purposefully vague here, because frankly, one should know as little as possible about this film before jumping into it. It’s that kind of movie.
May is told entirely through the perspective of May herself, and in no way does the film allow this to be an easy, comfortable experience. We are forced to experience her many moments of shame and embarrassment via her physical and personal abnormalities. The few other individuals she interacts with are made to be far less relatable, so her own imperfect self remains our closest sense of relation. And when things begin to rise to an ugly head, the film gives us no choice but to stay along for the grueling ride. To me, however, this is only the best part of May.