The dreamy but indistinct fantasy “Mayday” finds its Alice-before-Wonderland in Ana (Grace Van Patten), a server who is terrorized by her superiors and adored by her kitchen colleagues. Ana finds her proverbial rabbit hole when a voice calls from the oven. She crawls after it and lands in an unknown sea.
In this alternate universe, Ana is washed ashore and taken in by a female insurgency run by the charismatic Marsha (Mia Goth). Men are absent from the island’s makeshift society, and Marsha explains that men have been consumed by a forever war beyond their shores. To hear Marsha tell it, men are prone to assault any girl who crosses their path, and Marsha’s vagabond crew picks off the fellows they can snare. They act as sirens over their radio system, drawing soldiers to their deaths at sea. On land, they prefer sniper fire, and a skeptical Ana is to be their latest sharpshooter.
It should be a bold premise, but there is a curious contrast in this film between the richly defined images and the story’s ethical indeterminacy. Visually, the writer and director Karen Cinorre is sure-footed, impressing with steampunk production design and sun-dappled cinematography. But narratively, her movie waffles, refusing to generate plausible rationales for Marsha’s girlboss-ish militancy.
Marsha insinuates, commandeers and oversimplifies from the moment she is introduced. Her peach-fuzzed targets are too immediately identifiable as lambs rather than wolves. The movie undermines its characters’ principles, and without sincere justification for their warped actions, all dramatic tension dissipates. For a film about misandrist revolutionaries, “Mayday” lacks the courage of its convictions — it sets up boogeymen as targets only to shoot them point blank, in broad daylight.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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