Disrespected, ignored, and abused, hotel worker Ana (Grace Van Patten) exists in a world where men are largely abusive, violent, and maniacal. Thrust through a looking glass scenario, Ana tumbles like Alice into a paradise of sorts, where women lure passing soldiers to their deaths, like the Sirens of Greek mythology. A revenge fantasy of sorts, Mayday shows off the incredible cinematic skills of Karen Cinorre and asks the audience to consider the choices made when facing great emotional moments that define who we are as human.
Within the first few minutes of the movie, Ana has been demeaned in varying degrees by her boyfriend, the manager of the hotel where she works, the groom of a wedding party, and others, who seem to overlook her – or deem her “useable” – even while the camera seems to capture her demure goodness. When the violence of man’s world violates her quiet existence, she finds herself drawn to a light, to a sound, that sucks her into a fantasy world where she meets the violent women who have had enough and fight back.
Like Alice in Wonderland there are characters on both sides of the dream, as Ana encounters Juliette Lewis’ bathroom attendant (real world) and June (other), and Frano Mašković’s hotel boss and unnamed attacker. The story, also by Cinorre, doesn’t spell it all out for the audience, but the comparisons are clear, as well as the differences: in the real world, women are told who they are and how to behave, while in the upside down, they determine their own reality. And yet… Ana chooses differently.
The assumption in the fantasy world is that everyone male is evil, cruel, a consumer of all things, especially all things feminine. That’s the worldview presented by Mia Goth’s Marsha on the island that Ana arrives, and she gravitates toward it, pulled in by the pull, the allure, of discovering revenge for herself. She’s told that she’s better off dead as a woman in the real world, because she can’t win, but here, she can win because she can become the actor of violence. And yet … there’s something different about Ana.
Cinorre’s story is interesting, if not confusing, but the cinematography demands the audience’s attention. The ideals behind the film are clearly timely, incredibly important – how does one reconcile the real-world violence against women in word and deed with a society that clamors for equity? The status quo must be disrupted; ‘violence’ is the answer, either realistically or virtually in the action of breaking the cycle. But Ana’s different outlook reminds us that not all breakage, not all frustrations of the system require vengeance or the shedding of blood.
We can choose to stand.