If the last month has proven anything when it comes to the world of film, we can only expect the unexpected when it comes to shifting release dates, roll-outs, and platforms. This means it is a bit futile to publish our yearly summer preview when the release calendar seems to change day-by-day, however, we’ll still be delivering our monthly previews.

The month of May doesn’t look like the usual one as there are no summer blockbusters on the slate, but there are plenty of notable options to watch, from controversial festival favorites to powerful documentaries. As a special mention, before its official release later this year via Music Box Films, MUBI will be holding a one-day-only, free special preview of Pablo Larraín’s Ema this Friday, May 1, and one can see our review here.

See our picks to watch this May below.

10. Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Laurent Bouzereau; May 5)

While the mysteries surrounding Natalie Wood’s death nearly forty years ago remain unsolved, a new documentary shines a spotlight on her vibrant life rather than the many rumors and theories that have dominated headlines. Dan Mecca said in our Sundance review, “There will be no grand revelations here, no shocking moments. Guided through her mother’s impressive life by daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner, the documentary focuses primarily on the good that Wood left behind. Famous as a child, Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko had her name changed to “Natalie Wood” by producer William Goetz in honor of director Sam Wood. You may remember the young starlet as the girl in Miracle on 34th Street.”

9. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson; May 29)

A world premiere at Slamdance Film Festival last year where it won the Best Narrative Feature Audience Award, the character-driven sci-fi feature The Vast of Night has received quite a festival run, including Toronto International Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, Chicago International Film Festival, Beyond Fest, and more. Telling the story of a switchboard operator and radio DJ in the 1950s who begin to hear strange audio frequencies coming through, this Twilight Esque-story sounds like the perfect frightfest to kick off the summer.

8. On a Magical Night (Christophe Honoré; May 8)

With his emotional, surprising drama Sorry Angel released just last year in the U.S., director Christophe Honoré is back already with his follow-up. Following a Cannes Film Festival premiere, where Chiara Mastroianni won Best Actress in the Un Certain Regard section, the comedy On a Magical Night (aka Chambre 212) follows a woman who after 20 years of marriage decides to leave and move into a hotel across the street. What follows looks like a series of charming hijinks and questioning as those that now occupy her new life begin to add up.

7. Deerskin (Quentin Dupieux; May 1)

With a prolific output the past decade, Quentin Dupieux is now back with one of the highlights of his career in Deerskin. A peculiar, satirical look at overcompensating for a void in one’s life, the film stars Jean Dujardin and Adèle Haenel, and it’ll shock as much as induce a laugh. Ethan Vestby said in his review from TIFF “that the film can essentially be summarized as Divorced Guy Energy: The Movie. A ribbing of masculinity that alternates between bone-dry and morbid humor to great effect, it may come across as an easily discernible film ideologically. Yet its placement in the Special Presentations section of the Toronto Film Festival rather than the more apt Midnight Madness programme perhaps speaks to it as a truly confusing object on at least the basis of overall comedic effect.”

6. Driveways (Andrew Ahn; May 7)

Andrew Ahn’s Spa Night follow-up Driveways now has added resonance as the drama marks one of the final roles from the late Brian Dennehy. A coming-of-age story about an 83-year-old veteran of the Korean war and an Asian-American boy who newly arrives to town, it was a favorite at Berlinale last year. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “With Driveways, Ahn gives Dennehy the chance to fully explore the softer reaches of his talents. The actor, in turn, has made Del into something that is not a million miles from the oblong hero of Pixar’s Up, but with more interest, perhaps, in bingo than balloons.”

5. Spaceship Earth (Matt Wolf; May 8)

If the Earth was no longer inhabitable, could we survive inside a self-sustaining biodome environment launched into space? In 1991, an eight-person group of men and women embarked on a two-year experiment to actually put this theory to the test. Matt Wolf’s new documentary Spaceship Earth captures this experiment in detail. I said in my Sundance review, “Equipped with hours upon hours of archival footage thanks to the diligent work of those involved in the experiment, director Matt Wolf goes beat-by-beat not only through the media sensation of the project, but the quarter-century foundation that led to it. The resulting documentary makes for a fascinating story full of twists yet one that could’ve used some more invention and focus in the ways in which this sprawling journey is told.”

4. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt; May 15)

A key figure in the world of independent film, Dan Sallitt’s criticism and filmmaking have been long-admired and now he’s returning with his fifth feature Fourteen, debuting at Virtual Cinemas via Grasshopper Film. Rory O’Connor said in his Berlin review that it’s “an acutely observed and quietly expansive little film from the New York director of The Unspeakable Truth (another film with uncomfortable ideas about pseudo-siblinghood). This new feature concerns the alpha-beta (as it is perceived by the characters) relationship of two young women living in Brooklyn as, over the course of a decade or so, the beta friend adjusts to the pains and realizations of growing up and growing apart.’

3. On the Record (Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick; May 27)

When HBO Max launches in May, along with the Studio Ghibli library, Turner Classic Movies selections, and more of the back catalog, there will be a number of original projects. One of the most notable is On the Record, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s immensely powerful new documentary that explores the sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons from Drew Dixon and others. I said in my review, “It’s an emotional gut-punch of a film that will have one appalled that Simmons continues to thrive in the industry and enraged at the systemic limitations endured by black women, resulting in a lack of career advancement and a fear of societal rejection if they go against their own culture.”

2. Liberté (Albert Serra; May 1)

We aren’t getting a Marvel movie to kick off the summer movie season, but thankfully something far more daring and anticipated is arriving instead this week. Albert Serra’s Liberté, which won a Special Jury Prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, is coming to Virtual Cinemas from Cinema Guild. “This is both Serra’s most uncompromising film and his most enjoyable,” Ethan Vestby said in our rave TIFF review. “In a way, it’s perhaps a stunning refute to the notion of “edgelord” as pejorative term; someone has to deliberately provoke to show us something we haven’t seen before.”

1. The Trip to Greece (Michael Winterbottom; May 22)

While most sequels are currently being postponed, one of the best franchises marches forward with its final outing. The Trip, hatched by Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, and Rob Brydon in 2010, featured subsequent journies to Italy and Spain, and now this month we’ll be getting The Trip to Greece. Once again edited into a feature following a series debut in the U.K., the outing was set to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival but will now launch digitally this month. With the series’ delectable mix of humor, comedy, and pathos, we can’t imagine a better bit of escapism during this time.

Honorable Mentions

Tammy’s Always Dying (May 1)
Bull (May 1)
The Infiltrators (May 1)
Becoming (May 6)
Porno (May 8)
How to Build a Girl (May 8)
The Wolf House (May 15)
Capone (May 12)
Take Me Somewhere Nice (May 21)
The Lovebirds (May 22)

What are you watching this month?

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