Sundance 2021 – Mayday (2021)

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In Karen Cinorre‘s directorial debut, Mayday stars a predominately female cast that includes Grace van Patten, Mia Goth and Juliette Lewis.

The film follows Ana (van Patten), a young woman struggling to sleep. One day, a storm transports her into an alternate reality that sees a group of female soldiers caught in a never-ending war. Rescued by the group’s leader Marsha (Mia Goth), Grace is trained as a sharpshooter and becomes close with fellow soldiers Gert (Soko) and Bea (Havana Rose Liu). But Grace soon realises that there is more to this ‘war’ that meets the eye.

When we first meet Ana, people mostly ignore her or deem her a ‘nobody’. This poor treatment has reduced her to a weak-willed woman that is looking for an ‘escape’, hinting at Mayday‘s underlying theme of abuse.

This escape comes in the form of a rugged coastline, where Marsha keeps a sharp eye for would-be survivors. While a now-amnesiac Grace integrates herself in Marsha’s sisterhood, she notices a deep-seated hatred that prolongs the war. Put simply, the group redirects male soldiers who answer their distress calls into perilous storms, causing them to perish at sea. Those who manage to survive and make it to the island also die by the girls’ hands. Their approach is vengeful and somewhat twisted, but it dismisses the idea that women are just softly spoken ‘damsels in distress’ who need a man to rescue them.

Despite Marsha’s relentless insistence that men are the enemy, cracks in her leadership lead Grace to realise the futility in the war. Through tense confrontations and rare moments of reflection, our heroine sees that the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and embarks on a journey that sees her finally reclaim her self-confidence.

While Mayday has a strong message at its heart, a lack of focus and attention causes certain elements to become lost. Supporting characters such as Gert, Bea and June (Juliette Lewis) end up underdeveloped while the forceful dialogue hardens the dream-like narrative. This ultimately creates mixed messages of what Mayday hopes to achieve, and asks whether this ‘escape’ only skims the surface into Ana’s road to recovery.

Amid Mayday‘s wartime façade lies an allegoric tale of female empowerment and discovering one’s true strength. However, its plot and character inconsistencies only leaves us asking for answers.

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

Director: Karen Cinorre
Stars: Grace van Patten, Mia Goth, Soko, Havana Rose Liu
, Juliette Lewis
Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: USA

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