There is something about the haunting opening voiceover that stays with you throughout the film, even after the point of the ‘Mayday’ signal’ is explained. Mia Goth’s voice echoes across the ocean and into another world. A very unusual beginning to a story that doesn’t feel like it has a definitive end.
When Hotel worker Ana finds herself stranded on an island during a never-ending war with a group of woman who spend their time luring ships to their doom, she finds it difficult to adjust. Over time she begins to find the joy in getting revenge on the world of men. But is this real or a fantasy, can she get back to her old life? Does she even want to?
The non-descript island in a nameless place is an excellent backdrop to the strange fantastical world that Ana finds herself. It isn’t a paradise by no means but it is a place that provides freedom for women who have suffered greatly in their past. The women’s backstories are hinted at but never discussed at length, leading us to assume and guess what horrors befell these women. At the start we already see Ana being abused by the manager at the hotel and get a glimpse into Marsha’s life as an unhappy bride but that is all we, the audience, are given.
The story touches on fantasy with reality lingering in the wings, but film includes another sub-genre, the mythical kind. The violence and hate the women experienced is what fuels them to shoot any man who makes it the island. Luring the men to their deaths like the fabled sirens, taking pleasure in their victims’ destruction. These moments of malice are accompanied by several images and scenes of the women in water, cementing the siren or water nymph persona. It is also hinted at that there are other women stationed on the island, a girl in every port, showing that there are many women who have needed this refuge and escape. It seems that the island is a place that they all need to visit at some point in their lives. But with all these women stationed here, there are safety in numbers, they are their own tribe.
Mia Goth leaves the biggest impression as the seemingly weak Bride then later the unhinged Marsha who believes violence is the only way to respond. Her gleeful dance with her guns in front of the oceans is liberating and terrifying at the same time as Ana begins to realise that she doesn’t belong on the island. Soko, Havana Rose Lui and Grace Van Patten as Ana all play their parts in the story but its shame we get to see so little of Juliette Lewis’ ‘doesn’t play well with others’ June as she would have added more energy into the group.
The film is surreal at times, when switching from reality to fantasy and with a somewhat obvious overarching ‘lesson’ to be learnt, the story does lose its focus. However, Mayday does have some beautiful imagery, a cinematic setting and a fine cast.
Mayday is available on digital download now