May In The Summer – A Challenging Family Drama Beautifully Presented

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"May In The Summer,"  from Cohen Media Group and Displaced Pictures,  brings to the screen a contemporary drama of discovery as familial boundaries wax and wane allowing for new ideas, new lives, ideals and hopes to replace childhood dreams.

 

Written and directed by Cherien Dabis, "May In The Summer" stars Dabis as May Brennan, Alia Shawkat as Dalia, Nadine Malouf as Yasmine, her sisters. Bill Pullman stars as Edward Brennan, their father, and Hiam Abbass as Nadine, their mother.

Set in Amman, Jordan, "May In The Summer" opens with May on the plane preparing to descend into Jordan, filled with a million thoughts as she arrives, the plane dips slightly and a beautiful sun fills the window, creating a peaceful presence.

A celebrated and successful writer, May is engaged to Columbia University scholar, Ziad, a Muslin which, of course is the center of the family conflict.

While family loves May, and her sisters are happy, the fact remains she is marrying outside her religion. Born into a mixed family as her father, Edward, a seasoned diplomat, played by Bill Pullman, has a fetish for the smoky eyes and sultry darkness of Jordanian women.

His daughters, which are typical in psychological functioning of a three child family, the middle daughter, never really having to do much to fit in or please her parents, Yasmine, is quick to reveal the family secrets once told as it sets her apart from her siblings.

May, the first born, an A-typical achiever, will be and will live the life she planned. Ali Shawkat is Dalia, the third child, the baby of the family; she fortunately remains the apple of her parent's eye and her childish behaviors, totally understandable as she deals with her father's wife, who was his mistress during her formative years.

The family gathering is May's wedding. Slowly the fears, the "what ifs" are creeping in and May is coming undone. Returning to her home, in her parents' eyes, she is the same person she was, although all know she has the level of success, she is still treated as the girl.

Her parents as most in estrangements are driving her slightly crazy. Her mother, played by Hiam Abbass, has found Jesus and is now a practicing Christian with zero tolerance for May's fiancé and has adamantly insisted she will not attend the wedding.

Dealing with her father and his wife, Anu, played by Ritu  Singh Pande, who has decided May is her new confident is enough with pre-weeding week jitters to send any sane person over the edge.

A new man in May's life, a local, brings her solace and allows her to seriously question her decision without the adding the "I'll be alone" statement into the equation.

Her parents seem to each be having affairs and childhood curiosities reduce she and her sisters, to three giggling girls and seem to propel them to follow her to an midnight rendezvous. The scene moves from anger to frustration, surprise, confrontation and shock.

A beautiful film, "May In The Summer" is filmed entirely in Jordan. Dusty gold tones create a stunning backdrop as the film also is shot on location throughout Jordan including the Dead Sea.

Although not autobiographical, writer director Cherien Dabis summered in Jordan as a child and with a love for her homeland and a desire to show the world the beauty of the region, she artistically presents scenes that open the eyes of the viewer to a Jordan little known and hardly ever seen.

Granted it is Jordan where modern conveniences are limited and she doesn't shy away from showing the limits in the luxury and amenities.

The cast of seasoned characters actors create a genuine and though provoking dilemma, and of course, with divorced parents the idea of one happy family at a milestone event was played with enough truth to send even the most together adult to the therapist.

"May In The Summer" is a family drama that anyone who has experienced the sibling struggles of family identity can relate. The divorce of her parents, the feelings of abandonment, the nagging and festering questions of why her father would leave her and her sisters is played well as the girls gather for the forbidden cigarette discussing the intimacies of their lives.

Those questions are never answered and the burden becomes the daughters to adjust and seemingly bear until a second whammy ignites a second set of questions and fears.

"May In The Summer" challenges especially for those who have escaped the boundaries of a childhood or small town, or  parental beliefs of home and place and followed pursuits or beliefs about themselves.

"May In The Summer" opens in select markets August 22, 2014.

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