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May December ★★★★



Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton

Released: 17th November 2023

Todd Haynes is a director highly recognised for making provocative films while still making you ask some important questions along the way. His latest feature, May December, is another cinematic achievement that again showcases his talent as an incredibly compelling and gifted filmmaker. After having its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, it was recently screened at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma with two full-house screenings. It stars Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in the two lead roles, which Moore has collaborated with Haynes a few times. There’s so much to discuss, so let’s get right to it.

Elizabeth Berry (Portman) is preparing for her next role in an upcoming feature. She has been cast to play the cinematic version of a woman named Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore), who has infamously been known for starting an affair with a 13-year-old named Joe (Charles Melton) at the time. It’s been two decades since that scandal, and they’re both married with three children. As the story goes on, they start feeling pressure when Elizabeth starts coming into their lives to do some research on her role as Gracie. We have ourselves a very thought-provoking yet mesmerising and profound film that revolves around the themes of uncertainty, exploitation and redemption.

Portman and Moore are amazing, as always. They provide depth to their characters in a remarkably layered and gripping way. It’s emotionally investing whenever they’re on screen interacting with one another. Tension starts to arise between these two, which makes you realise the film does a phenomenal job of being an intense and riveting psychological thriller. However, special praise must be given to Melton. He steals the show. Without a doubt, this will forever be recognised as his breakout role. You do feel for him, and it’s pretty devastating. After seeing him in this movie, you can’t wait to see what else he does next in his career. Award season is coming very soon, and these three actors deserve to be in the conversation.

Haynes brings Samy Burch’s screenplay to life on screen with a ton of character development and deep insight. Only someone like him would know how to tell a story like May December. If an inexperienced filmmaker has taken on this script, it would be a tonal disaster, especially given the premise of this subject matter. There’s some dark humour in the dialogue, but it’s executed quite well to the point the movie knows it’s not supposed to be a comedy. It makes their situation a lot more real. Marcelo Zarvos’s musical score is very eerie, which adds a lot to the narrative’s tone. It has pacing issues due to its long runtime, but Haynes still manages to keep you invested for most of the film.

May December will stick with you even after the credits finish rolling. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to appreciate in terms of storytelling and filmmaking throughout. With an incredible cast, brilliant script and terrific direction, Haynes proves he’s a skilful director and an auteur filmmaker.

Steven Lee has always been passionate about movies. He also writes for Short Ends, Montreal Rampage, That Moment In and Borrowing Tape.

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