May (McKee, 2002)

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May requires a leap of faith from the audience, a strong sense of empathy with an exaggerated sense of social alienation and the desire to break through from mundane loneliness. The film success more or less in channelling this strong emotion, but unfortunately takes an unfortunate tonal twist that ruins most of this anxiety that pervades the rest of the film.

From the beginning May has been an outcast because she was different. A lazy eye set her apart physically from her classmates, and they shunned and teased her. Though caring, her mother’s “care” was somewhat crippling as demonstrated by the gift of a special doll that was to be May’s best friend. The doll was so special that it had to remain in a glass case and never be removed, and May never broke the seal.

As an adult, May’s isolation has made her socially maladjusted. She’s incredibly shy and awkward, and though old enough to have graduated from veterinary school, she has never had a boyfriend though it’s what she yearns for. She remarks on how she has had a few opportunities, but the men were never perfect, parts of them might be, but never as a whole.

She falls for a mechanic named Adam, who she thinks has the most beautiful hands she has ever seen. Unsure how to proceed, she first attempts to catch his attention by dressing “sexy”, but it fails to work. She follows him to a restaurant, and again tries to lure his attention, but he falls asleep long before she has a chance. It’s at this point, that she initiates contact though, by approaching him and carefully brushing his hand against her face, which wakes him up and scares her away.

The cracks in her persona have already been made evident at this point, though, the audience hopes that having a stable friendship or relationship might help mend what could very easily just be insecurity. She talks to her doll often, and doesn’t seem to quite understand the fundamentals of human communication. Her awkwardness is somewhat endearing, as at one point or another, I’m sure most people have felt a distinct disconnect from the world around them. The looming failure of romantic pursuit plagues her, but her naivety also drives her above and beyond what a normal girl would do.

Adam obviously finds her strange, though at the same time, is not all together sympathetic to her shyness or “innocence”. Later scenes reveal he did not share too much passion for her outside of wanting to fulfill his lust and sexual desires, though their relationship was never consummated. She told him she had never been in a relationship, but his expectations were that she would understand and be prepared for everything that he was. The film definitely exaggerates her ignorance, and we’re shown that she is learning from her “dolls” and the horror film that Adam taught her. He says he loves weird, but retorts later that she is a freak, a harsh blow to her fragile self-esteem.

She then engages in a very brief relationship with another woman, brought to life by the always brilliant Anna Faris, Polly, who is neurotic and strange but in a socially acceptable way. They have what is essentially a one night stand, and though it wasn’t necessarily the ideal relationship May was searching for, she was happy with the situation. When she returns to Polly another night, there is another woman in the apartment, something that May cannot come to terms with.

In many ways, her naivety is an interesting platform for exploring how strange and innately perverse human relationships can be. How we treat those who are different, and how our selfish desires often come far ahead of considerations of others. May quickly becomes disillusioned with the prospect of finding someone that would love her and that she would love. This is where the film takes an unfortunate turn, though the premise does work within context of the rest of the narrative.

May realises that if she can’t find a friend, that she will make one, so she goes on a killing spree to collect body parts. This is not inherently a bad idea, but her persona takes such a dramatic turn that it really pulled me out of the story. Murderous May is confidant, assured and eloquent, completely out of spirit with the character we were presented. I also find it difficult to believe a girl who knows little of popular culture as evidenced by brief conversations with Adam, would be able to reference Betty Grable when talking about a woman with particularly delicious walking sticks.

This whole sequence, though horrific, feels so off the mark for me. I do not understand the mentality, especially once her friend is assembled, she returns to the fragile and nervous girl from earlier in the film. The end sequence is actually quite heartbreaking, as May makes that final sacrifice so that she won’t have to be alone.

In the end, my verdict of the film is positive. I felt a huge amount of empathy for May, though hardly as maladroit as she is, feeling invisible and alone is something I, as well as most people deal with often. There is the idea that people can’t relate to May because she is so strange and awkward, but even more, she can’t relate to the “normal” people because they are often cruel and wrapped up in their own needs above all else.

2 responses to “May (McKee, 2002)

  1. I love May and agree that it has its flaws, but I think I was more willing to suspend my disbelief when she builds her own human “doll” from body parts. I’m glad that you otherwise enjoyed it.

  2. I think it was more in how it was done onscreen than the actual idea, I’m warming up to the sequence in retrospect and would like to see the film again to confirm or change my opinion on it.

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