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May December


Stars: Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Charles Melton

Director: Todd Haynes

Haynes is one of my favourite directors, but he's on uncertain ground here. Pounding piano music, based largely on Michael Legrand's score for The Go-Between, does its best to convince us that we're watching something of great moment. But it hardly shakes us from the feeling that, as Bogart said in Casablanca 'It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.'

Elizabeth (Portman), an actress, descends on a beachside cafe and patisserie to research material on her next film, about a 36-year-old married woman, Gracie (Moore), whose affair with a 13-year-old schoolboy unsurprisingly landed her in jail. The couple later married and now run said eaterie with two of their three nearly grown-up children.

Gracie says she's happily married and willing to talk about the past, while her chunky husband (Melton) divides his time between emailing a (boy?) friend, and cultivating caterpillars until they turn into butterflies and fly free, perhaps mirroring his own wishes (the theme is heavily underlined) and regret for a largely lost youth.

The only questions remaining in this rather ponderous - if blisteringly well acted by Portman and Moore - film, are whether the actress will have sex with Gracie or with her husband, and whether anyone will top themselves at the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2023. UK Distributor: Sky Cinema. Colour (unspecified).
115 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 13 Nov 2023