The art of finding oneself is sometimes best explored through…art. That’s exactly where Ana ends up in Mayday: as she’s washed up on a mysterious island where women lure men in as figurative sirens. The premise is limitless in terms of the direction of the story and the morality that’s passed on to its subjects, but it falls short of the mark on both counts.
Much like Lars von Trier’s House that Jack Built, you’re meant to suspend some of your disbelief in terms of how Ana got to the island, and anything after that point. For the first 30 minutes or so, I was drawn in. Ana is an outsider, and we get to learn about her new life and this new home alongside her. Her sense of wonder is augmented by our own, as the potential shows itself and the moral threads start to reveal themselves.
But very quickly after that point, the film falls apart. Mayday is an ultimately threadbare surrealistic film, lacking vision and the visuals to pull it off. Although it has a few action scenes, they aren’t the focus of the film. The shots of the island itself are serene, contrasted to the warring and violent lives of its inhabitants. But the cast just isn’t given anything to do outside of Ana (Grace Van Patten), as they’re generally made to espouse on-the-nose rants or expository information.
“Mayday is an ultimately threadbare surrealistic film, lacking vision and the visuals to pull it off.”
Mayday is a very good idea executed in one of the most basic ways possible. I want to see a contemporary siren metaphor again, but not like this. I hope to see more features from director/writer Karen Cinorre in the future, because you can see her potential shine through. There are scenes where it feels like a completely different, and more compelling movie.
The script is very content with throwing out powerful historical-based gender themes, then moving on to some other detour. Boring intergroup drama or uninspired action (which isn’t nearly visceral enough given what’s at stake, figuratively) are its biggest sins. The drama, in particular, is sometimes even groan-worthy, in part due to a small cast that lacks chemistry.
Mayday becomes less powerful as time goes on, until it culminates in a predictable arc for Ana that’s heavily broadcasted. The film has an interesting, broad message with its revolutionary aesthetic, but it’s been done so much better already that it’s hard to really get anything new out of it.