May December movie poster (Al Jazeera)

The movie “May December” contains many interwoven puzzles. It does not clarify where the imagination begins and where the reality ends in its story, which is drawn from a famous real incident that was circulated in the tabloids for months after it happened.

The name of the film represented a mystery that the director needed to explain, and then critics and viewers were confused as to whether it was a comedy or a drama, until Netflix presented it to compete in the comedy films category at the Golden Globes.

Read also

list of 4 itemslist 1 of 4

The comedy film “A Strange Family Incident” is an unfunny social horror

list 2 of 4

The Swedish film "Thanks and Apology"... Blood ties are unbreakable

list 3 of 4

The movie “Impostor” is a cinematic game that motivates the viewer to unlock its secrets 

list 4 of 4

A movie, a child, and "Joker"... 3 important events awaiting Joaquin Phoenix in 2024

end of list

The film “May December” is directed by Todd Haynes and stars Oscar winners Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, in addition to Charles Melton. It is currently being shown on Netflix, while it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Unusual family

The events of the movie “May December” begin with a family celebrating American Independence Day. The evening is organized by a seemingly ordinary family in the garden of their spacious home overlooking a lake. The family is waiting for a special kind of guest. We learn after a few seconds that she is a moderately famous television actress coming to meet the family - especially her mother - because she... She will be starring in her upcoming independent film.

The work highlights the difference between photography and cinema;

While the first captures a still image that shows the state of its characters at the moment it was captured, cinematography has the gift of continuity. We find that the ideal image painted by the first shots of the film cracks in the next few seconds, when the viewer notices the clear age difference between the wife and her husband, as she is older than him to a degree that suggests that she is his mother. While those who call him “Dad” are a few years younger than him, then we know why the mother’s story captured the attention of the actress and the makers of her film. This woman, “Grace” (Julianne Moore), who seems very kind and gentle, is a former prisoner who was tried on charges of assaulting a minor, and that minor is her husband. Present.

The film's scenario and story are inspired by a real incident starring Mary Kay Letourneau, a thirty-year-old teacher who was sentenced to prison for assaulting a minor, but decided to marry him after she was released from prison and he completed the age of majority, and their marriage continued until a year before her death.

Mirrors reflect the illusion

"May December" does not present Mary Kay Letourneau's story directly, but it straightens the line, imagining the life of this strange family after years of marriage;

The father is thirty-six years old, while the mother has reached the end of her fifties, and their eldest daughter is in university, while their young twins are about to graduate from high school, and the actress “Elizabeth” (Natalie Portman) stirs up the family’s stagnant waters and memories of the past, as she tries to emulate the behaviors of the mother, “Grace.” “And defined by family dynamics, each member begins to recall his or her past.

So here we have 3 images of the same woman;

The real character, then actress "Julianne Moore" will play her role under the name "Grace" in the movie "May December", then actress "Elizabeth" will play the role of "Grace" in the fictional movie whose filming we see in the last scenes of "May December".

Each of these women is not a duplicate of the other;

Rather, it is an artistic simulation similar to the process of cinematic adaptation, which mixes some truth with a lot of imagination. The more Elizabeth tries to imitate Grace, the more her true personality appears.

American actor Charles Melton as “Joey” in the movie “May December” (Netflix)

Mirrors are often used in the film as a reflection of this cinematic simulation of reality, a simulation that makes the viewer believe that he knows the truth, but it is just an illusion, as even these characters do not know the exact truth about themselves, and in one of the scenes the two heroines stand in front of the mirror so that Elizabeth learns how to apply Grace “makeup.” ", while the camera lens replaces this mirror, so the viewer stands directly in front of the two faces that give him the illusion that they are the same person for a few seconds, and the two figures who imagine that they are in front of a mirror between them, are in front of a camera lens that transmits their image to the spectator's eye.

“May December” is not a film about a true story, but about the way camera lenses convey the truth, the flimsy boundaries between that truth and fiction, and the mirrors that only reflect what we want to see in them.

Because it does not provide clear answers, or judges the characters strictly morally, and leaves the ending open, it often gives the viewer a lump in the throat.

"May December" and the story of a butterfly

From the beginning, the film seems as if it is focusing on the story of "Grace", who treats herself as a victim who society does not understand, and who cannot accept her unusual love story, but it only monitors this character, and it also monitors the character of the actress "Elizabeth", who seems all the time as if she... In reality, she is represented in the same image as she is represented on screen, an artificial woman. The viewer reveals her falsity when she shows kindness to other characters while in reality she is exploiting and manipulating them, to get the bottom line of their story and better present it in her next film.

We can consider “Grace” and “Elizabeth” as static characters, as they are not subject to any changes during the events of the film, while the only moving or dynamic character is “Joe,” the young husband, or “May” in the film’s title, as “May December” is a common American term. About the love relationships that take place between two people who are separated by a large age period, due to the long distance between the two months of the year, and one of them indicates the beginning of summer, while the other indicates winter.

Indeed, the events of the movie “May December” take place in the month of May, and it ends with the graduation of Joe’s youngest son, a young man in his mid-thirties who has never been honest with himself about the fact that he was being exploited, and for years deluded himself of the strength of his love for Grace.

Joe practices the hobby of raising silkworms, where he waits for each worm to turn into a butterfly in order to release it, but he does not realize until the end of the film that he himself is trapped in such butterflies, waiting for his release.

The viewer watches Joe's very slow and quiet journey in transforming from a worm to a butterfly, from the false ideal image that Grace created at the beginning of the film, to him standing far away watching his children graduate from high school before they set off for university and then professional life, the children who act His final link to Grace.

"Joe" cries in the last scenes of the film, and the viewer does not know whether he is affected by his children's graduation, or by the life he wasted in a lie, or by fear of confronting himself and "Grace"?

It is difficult to judge the morality of the heroes of “May December” who stand on the border between good and evil. Some of them commit crimes while thinking they are the most innocent of people, and others are victims without knowing it. In the end, we find a film about the cinema industry, which at its heart means the industry of illusion.

Source: Al Jazeera + agencies