When Ana (Grace Van Patten, 'Under the Silver Lake') is suddenly woken from her night's sleep in her car, her day as a hotel waitress begins in the same way it just ended, begrudgingly. Her friend Dimitri (Théodore Pellerin, 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always') promises her that one day it will get better, that one day she won't have to wake up in her car, but any wind in her sails is quickly exasperated when she is confronted by her abusive head waiter, and the question is raised if she will find the strength to fight another day.
There are brief encounters at the hotel with Max the chef (Zlatko Buric, 'Triangle of Sadness'), a photographer and the bride and groom, but the stormy weather proves too much for the hotel with power outages leading to sudden bursts of darkness. When Ana is asked to switch the power back on the entire place trips, and Ana is lead in the darkness by a distress signal coming from the oven. Once inside, Ana awakens in a new fantasy world, which will test her fight for empowerment and revenge.
In her feature length debut, writer and director Karen Cinorre re-invents the mythical sirens in 'Mayday', an action/fantasy/adventure/mystery film that tries to challenge its audience with questions of female empowerment. The film centres on three women who take Ana in and teach her their ways. Marsha (Mia Goth, 'Emma.', 'Pearl'), Gert (Soko, 'The Dancer') and Bea (Havana Rose Liu) have made this island their home, acting as damsels in distress - or so they would have you believe. As commander, Marsha guides the group in sending out distress signals to pilots in an ongoing war, leading them blindly to nearby storms - and ultimately, their deaths. If they somehow make it onto the island, they will not last long.
Ana learns the tricks of the trade, but will her connection to home ever be severed enough to play her part, or is there just too much for her to find her safe space?
The parallel to the mythical sirens is clear, but what Cinorre is really trying to challenge here is the "dangers" associated with the female voice. Cinorre uplifts these sirens as heroes, fighting their battles in a world that no longer allows them to fight at all. Here, on this island, they can right their wrongs, find their vengeance, and as Marsha proudly states, finally win. For Ana, there might be more to her life than winning and something worth fighting for another day, which will ultimately test her commitment to the cause.
Somewhere in the premise - and perhaps even on the cutting floor - is an exciting and adventurous siren film that flips the myth on its head and really explores the central themes. Alas, 'Mayday' isn't that film.
I absolutely love the premise of this film. A modern-day siren, fighting against the patriarchy and finding their inner strength through female connections. It has great fantasy elements with mystery and even a dance sequence, and Goth is an absolute force of nature who will no doubt continue to command screens for years to come.
However, there is just far too little here to really make this a memorable film. There is intrigue throughout that should entice audiences, but there is little in the way of answers that unfortunately have the adverse effect. Instead of leaving things open to interpretation, there isn't enough here to string a theory together, so you end up just kind of ignoring the space altogether. The script feels very forced in some parts and while the actresses do their best to uplift the words, you can only work with what you've been given. Juliette Lewis ('Cape Fear') as June is a bit of a badass, but her character isn't given all that much to do which kind of leaves you thinking - "what for?"
Somewhere in the premise - and perhaps even on the cutting floor - is an exciting and adventurous siren film that flips the myth on its head and really explores the central themes. Alas, 'Mayday' isn't that film as much as I wish it was. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what was missing, but perhaps leaning more into the fantasy elements and a bit more genuine conversations among the "souls" on the island may have just provided a bit more stability that the film lacks.
There is wonderful power provided in the connection of the sisterhood, and Ana's arc can hopefully provide comfort to any audience members who will certainly find relatable elements, but 'Mayday' ultimately feels short-changed and wanting for more. There is hope that this film will spark bigger conversations and that is truly commendable. Furthermore, having a film with an all-female lead cast and written and directed by a female is a remarkable feat that should be celebrated.
A film that teases the audience and draws them in, but much like the sirens themselves, the end result is not quite what was promised.