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15 Films to See in May

Written by on May 2, 2018 

5. On Chesil Beach (Dominic Cooke; May 18)


Synopsis: In 1962 England, a young couple find their idyllic romance colliding with issues of sexual freedom and societal pressure, leading to an awkward and fateful wedding night.


Why You Should See It: It’s been over a decade since Saoirse Ronan first landed on our radar with Atonement, and since then she’s continually impressed. Following Hanna, Brooklyn, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and, most recently, Lady Bird, the Irish-American actress’ latest role finds her in romantic hardship on her wedding night. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “The movie becomes a gradual peeling back of anxieties and fears, unspoken expectations, and impossible requests.”

4. Manhunt (John Woo; May 4)


Synopsis: After he is framed for a vile crime, a Chinese pharmaceutical lawyer teams up with a Japanese detective to stop a dangerous plot.


Why You Should See It: While the summer will no doubt be met with disappointments in the action genre, the season will kick off with a new film from a master in the field, John Woo. Although it won’t be available on the big screen, his new thriller Manhunt will arrive worldwide on Netflix at the end of this week. One of our favorites from last year’s TIFF, C.J. Prince said in his review, “Now in his 70s, Woo has become fully self-aware, and in doing so seems to have challenged himself to create the most John Woo movie ever made. With Manhunt, he has indeed made the most John Woo movie possible, while also making a film that could just be described as “the most.” It’s a deliriously entertaining thrill ride from start to end, and sure to go down as one of the most enjoyable films of 2017.”

3. The Day After (Hong Sang-soo; May 11)


Synopsis: When a woman discovers a love poem that was written for her husband, she mistakenly believes that the author is her husband’s new secretary.


Why You Should See It: Out of the handful I’ve seen, The Day After is my favorite Hong Sang-soo feature, an austerely tender and funny drama filled with a hefty dose of shame. “Hong’s world is all about repetition, and while the cold domestic and workplace settings of his latest film, The Day After, are somewhat of a departure from the unfamiliar streets his character usually walk down, the majority of his signature ingredients are present and accounted for: sad, unfaithful men abusing positions of relative power; dialogue that meanders between the everyday and the sublime; his current muse, Kim Min-hee; and, of course, generous lashings of Soju,” Rory O. said in his review.

2. The Tale (Jennifer Fox; May 26)


Synopsis: An investigation into one woman’s memory as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.


Why You Should See It: The most powerful experience I’ve had at a theater this year is during Jennifer Fox’s The Tale at Sundance, but it won’t be the way the majority of viewers experience this harrowing tale of sexual abuse. Perhaps for the better due to the depiction of its subject matter, HBO picked up the Laura Dern-led film and will premiere it this month. I said in my review, “With The Tale, Fox has not only created a deeply personal investigative memoir, but one that could stand as a model to those that have been abused and seek the truth and some semblance of retribution. Showing the psychologically grueling, often confusing process of realization, acceptance and, ultimately, confrontation, Fox bravely handles each aspect with detail and care. The Tale is a soul-excavating reckoning with the suppression of trauma and a testament to the courage required for a victim to confront the most damaging moments of their lives.”

1. First Reformed (Paul Schrader; May 18)


Synopsis: A pastor of a small church in upstate New York starts to spiral out of control after a soul-shaking encounter with an unstable environmental activist and his pregnant wife.


Why You Should See It: Premiering on last year’s fall film festival circuit, Paul Schrader’s dark, existential spiritual drama First Reformed is one of the director’s best films–perhaps the best. “It seems that some of Schrader’s own directorial efforts, be it American Gigolo or Light Sleeper, were certainly an attempt to complete the “Transcendental” experience to one degree or another,” Ethan Vestby said in his review. “Yet four decades later, First Reformed — which, should be mentioned, also seems to be taking from Bergman’s Winter Light and Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice in the religious cinema canon — may be the full realization of Schrader’s vision.”

What are you watching this month?

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