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Originally published Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 3:06 PM

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‘May in the Summer’: Fiancée’s conflicts heat up comedy

A movie review of “May in the Summer,” a smart, original comedy about a New York-based author who returns to her native Jordan to get married — and decides it no longer seems a good idea. It received three stars out of four.


Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review ★★★  

‘May in the Summer,’ with Cherien Dabis, Alexander Siddig, Hiam Abbass, Bill Pullman, Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf, Elie Mitri. Written and directed by Dabis. 99 minutes. Rated R for mild sexual content. In English and Arabic, with English subtitles. Sundance Cinemas (21+).

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If sectarianism makes the world a dangerously divisive place, it seems logical that someone born of mixed cultures, religions and ethnicities would happily embrace an integrated identity.

In reality, a blended heritage can lead to personal conflict and confusion. Cherien Dabis — writer, director and star of the highly original comedy “May in the Summer” — explores what happens when a bright and successful author loses confidence in her seemingly secure self-image of above-the-fray inclusiveness.

As May, Dabis (“Amreeka”) is both persuasive and sympathetic when her sophisticated character — a New York-based writer engaged to Ziad (Alexander Siddig), a Muslim scholar from Columbia University — travels to her native Amman, Jordan, for a wedding that no longer seems a good idea.

There, in the country’s capital, May resumes a frosty relationship with her divorced, Arab, born-again-Christian mother (the great Hiam Abbass), who refuses to attend the wedding because of the groom’s faith. May also finds her unreliable white-American father (Bill Pullman) reaching out while she also navigates confusing family history with her restless sisters (Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf).

Above all, marrying Ziad loses its false security for May as she becomes re­acquainted with her conflicted roots, all while warming up to a kind Palestinian tour guide (Elie Mitri).

Shot in Amman’s middle-class environs, the film (inexplicably rated R) is deceptively light in tone, given such strong themes as infidelity, abandonment and religious intolerance. Dabis covers a lot of ground as a storyteller while delivering a smart, focused performance.

Thom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com



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