Sundance 2021: Mayday

After a terrible encounter with her boss inspires her to put her head in an oven, Ana finds herself on a mysterious island of girls – but this is no Themyscira.

On this island, Ana (Grace Van Patten) joins Marsha’s (Mia Goth) army of girls where war is constantly being waged against men. Along with Bea (Havana Rose Liu), Gert (Soko), and June (Juliette Lewis), they lure what appear to be WWII-era planes of soldiers with mayday calls of distress. Planes that answer the call and steer toward the island are mysteriously wrecked, and any men who survive and wash ashore are taken out by the girls, who’ve been training as snipers.

If the island is meant to be some sort of limbo for suicides, it’s populated by women who’ve been done wrong by men and are out for revenge. There is strength in numbers and strength in taking one’s power back, but while the island’s unique mission is exhilarating at first, Ana comes to realize she’s not entirely the killer Marsha wants her to be. Leaving won’t be so easy, though. Even if there’s a way to leave, Marsha isn’t keen to lose her newest recruit.

I love the vision and I love the attempt but I didn’t love the movie. The island is a great premise for exploring feminism and suicide but it doesn’t know how to create tension or sufficient reason to keep watching. Director Karen Cinorre is clearly very talented at putting together snappy, stylish visuals and has a knack for emotional dexterity, but Mayday needs a better grounding, better world building, better character development. Without those things, the film lacks dramatic propulsion and a good idea just never really becomes a good movie, but Grace Van Patten makes a strong case for future roles and Cinorre is a director to look out for.

5 thoughts on “Sundance 2021: Mayday

  1. selizabryangmailcom

    Stumbled into this late at night! I agree totally. Kept watching while half-dozing. I liked the idea but found it kinda “hammer me over the head” ham-fisted. Better world building and character building, like you said: good idea. Promise here, but probably more fascinating to 13-year-old girls.

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