Young women killing men for sport: a fantasy island you'd not want to visit

This beautifully photographed, "stylish yet surface level" film, with a luminous score and beautiful underwater shots set on an island is a violent feminist fantasy evoking "Little Women meets The Wizard of Oz meets The Hunger Games (RogerEbert.com); with "equal parts Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan" (BFI), which joins the ranks of "recent [filmic] female revenge fantasies Promising Young Woman and Assassination Nation" (Variety). That its world-building is very sketchy would be acceptable were "the script (the dialogue in particular) not so unsubtle" (BFI). It has also been pointed out the women are all blandly alike, waifish and white. This man-hating fantasy that sings and charms and yet is mean spirited and thin.

The Alice in Wonderland moment comes at the outset when a girl with long red hair called Ana (for Anastasia; Grace Van Patten) at a dead-end catering job "attempts" suicide (or perhaps she succeeds) by putting her head in a oven, winding up falling through the looking-glass onto a fantasy island with a rugged, dangerous shoreline where a handful of young long-haired women in makeshift Girl-Scout outfits (including Juliette Lewis), led by an imperious Brit with no eyebrows called Marsha (Mia Goth), amuse themselves by killing young airmen and drowning ships full of sailors.

A scene stands out in which Marsha comes upon a fallen airman dying of his wounds, pretends to be a nurse, and then in his most need torments him. In other scenes the women take potshots at airmen with various weapons, killing them.

Another sport, source of the film title, is to send out a "Mayday" disaster at sea message -"mary, alpha, yankee, delta, alpha, yankee" - received by (all presumably young) sailors who promise to come and rescue them, and then immediately have their ships mysteriously sunk by the ladies. Great fun. An attraction, a charm if you will, of the piece are the lovingly executed old-timey accoutrements, like the ship radio equipment used for these "Mayday" entrapments and the weaponry adopted to pick off the airmen. Another charm is the cosiness and affection that develop among the young women, with distinct lesbian overtones. It's the only human warmth in the course of a thoughtlessly mean and cruel story that does draw one in at moments.

What pushes one out is the killing men for sport, an unsavory angle that, for me, was what ultimately made the highly touted Bacarau of Kleber Mendonça Filho, though much more richly imagined, also ultimately a repellant watch. I agree wholeheartedly with Kelli Weston of BFI's opinion that "Karen Cirrone’s gorgeous if ultimately myopic feminist fantasy drama Mayday never fully realizes its interesting premise nor its ideological ambitions." Moreover it made me fall asleep repeatedly: there is too little that is solid for the mind to get a grip on. Perhaps one is taking it all too seriously. A confident Wes Anderson note is set at such times as when a group of airmen out of doors perform a ritual formation and dance like in a musical. And after all Ana, the character with whom the audience most identifies, decides the island world is not for her.

Mayday, 100 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2021 and also showed at Rotterdam; no other festival showings are listed on IMDb. It has been picked up by Magnolia for US distribution and opens Oct. 1 in theaters and on demand. (No Metascore yet.)