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How to Overcome Loneliness? - May (2002)

On the 31st of October, All Hallows' Eve was celebrated - or Halloween, whatever you prefer to call it - and just like my menu had to include gummies, chocolate, and popcorn, a good horror movie was also a must.


As an avid consumer of this kind of genre, I think that, throughout the years, I've watched all the mainstream films, therefore the only ones left are the ones dubbed as the underground films. In order to prepare myself for that night, I leaned on Letterboxd - my best friend for the afternoon as I worried about selecting different, unique, and terrifying films. This was how I found May.


Premiered in 2002, directed by Lucky Mckee and starring Angela Bettis, May tells the story of a lonely young adult woman that works as a veterinary assistant in a low-cost clinic in Los Angeles. Bullied as a child for suffering from amblyopia ("lazy eye", that is when the brain has difficulty processing information coming from both eyes, favouring only one), May Canady ends up growing in a protective environment, in which her only friend is a doll. This doll, given to her by her mother, which is locked in a box, protected by glass, rapidly becomes May's greatest confidante, and watches her grow, helping her with the details and adventures of adult life. From that moment on, May is alienated, restricting herself to collecting dolls and observing the life of various people that pass by her. In that sense, she lives isolated in her own little world, without needing to interact with society.


The protagonist's adult life doesn't really differ from her childhood. Throughout the film, we see May incessantly searching for a friendly ear. With a certain interest in human anatomy, she's drawn to Adam's (Jeremy Sisto) hands, a young film student that she gets to know on her walks, and to Polly's (Anna Faris) neck, her co-worker. This attraction makes May take the next step and establish a friendship with these people, however it's to no avail. Even after undergoing some changes regarding her appearance, in the hope of being accepted, she is, just like in her childhood, rejected by others due to her personality and identity. While Adam and Polly say, "I like weird", when May warns them about her odd personality, they quickly abandon her for being too weird, even for them. Afterall, not everyone is charmed by her interest in grotesque scenarios, human bodies and amputation.


Thus, May realises that sure enough, her only best friend will always be her doll. Without being able to talk, think or act, the doll can't hurt her like everybody else did. However, already at the climax of the narrative, - and without wanting to give you lots of spoilers-, May's doll breaks, driving her crazy. Now, without friends and rejected by all, the young girl decides to find – to build – the perfect friend, at all costs. For the protagonist, the best way of overcoming loneliness is hidden in the film's slogan: “If you can’t have a friend, make one.”

In the end, the film takes on an unexpected twist a la Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and, we, the viewers, find ourselves clinging from beginning to end to this hidden pearl that is May. Angela Bettis' performance gives the character of May a sweet and human, yet macabre nature, making us, on one hand, gain empathy for a character who, perhaps, does not deserve it, and on the other hand, lose empathy for those who despised her. Regarding the performance of Anna Faris and Jeremy Sisto, these characters are filled with parodic elements that give some humour to the melancholic and sinister mood created by the film.


In my opinion, this film is not only a regular slasher (which involves the random death of various characters by a serial killer), but it's also a feature-film that explores the ugly consequences of an apathetic society, of loneliness and our lack of understanding of others, showing how these elements have a strong role in the creation of the insanity that lies within each of us.


That being said, I recommend watching May next time you're bored, or procrastinating on term papers, or on the next All Hallows’ Eve.


By Sofia Lopes

Translated by Rita Magalhães


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