May December


Certain directors have their favourites when it comes to the talent they work with, which is why a number of them work with them time and again. Of course they don’t call them favourites, they call them muses, being performers they have a connection with.

US director Todd Haynes is one such director, and actor Julianne Moore is one such muse, with this feature marking the fifth collaboration between the pair.

boom reviews May December
You have to laugh when then paparazzi get stuck in trees!

Arriving in a fairly affluent part of Savannah, Georgia is Elizabeth (Natalie Portman). She is an actress and she has made the trip to meet and shadow Gracie (Moore), the woman she will be playing in her next role.

And Gracie’s story is a fascinating one; as a married, 36-year-old woman with children, she began a relationship with a 7th grader Joe, aged thirteen. They have been together for 23 years now, and have three children of their own, twins Charlie (Gabriel Chung) and Mary (Elizabeth Yu), who are about to graduate high school, and Honor (Piper Curda) who is at college.

On the surface it appears as if Gracie and Joe (Charles Melton) live the perfect life, but as Elizabeth does her research, interviewing the family and those that know them, she starts to get a picture of a family far from perfect.

boom reviews May December
I can't wait to have more pancakes...sigh...

Hayne’s follow up to his 2019 Dark Waters with a curious tale, that feels as if it could have been based on a true story, which it is, albeit loosely. Initially we are placed in similar shoes to that of Portman’s character Elizabeth, as we slowly learn from her need to get to know her real character, what has taken place here.

Although shocking, the fact that an older woman had an affair with a minor, doesn’t scream paedophile as much as it surely would have if it was a man instead. This seems to be Hayne’s intention, as the community seem not only totally at ease with the family, but embrace them. There’s little shown of what it was like initially however, which would have been interesting to see or at least hear about, as attitudes have clearly changed.

It’s no surprise that Haynes enjoys working with Moore, an actress who possibly doesn’t quite get the recognition she deserves, despite a string of fascinating roles, as well as her Best Actress Oscar win for Still Alice in 2015. She plays a complex character, who is very approachable and loves her family, and yet at the same time has served time in prison for having sex with a minor. Haynes pulls back just enough layers to reveal that she certainly has her faults.

And then you have Portman, whose character starts off very much the empty vessel that actors are before a role, and as the film progresses, you not only see said vessel filling up the more time she spends with Gracie, but also a measure of who she is as a person too.

But considering it’s a film with two strong female leads, it’s possibly Charles Melton’s performance that is the most heartfelt. Even now, as a grown up, there’s a vulnerability to his character, and also a faint sense of him still in some way being a victim.

It’s an intriguing premise, but one that Haynes doesn’t necessarily dive deep enough into, for all those concerned. Emotionally, it simmers throughout, and you feel it just needed one or two hand grenades of truth telling thrown into the mix to stir things up.

That said, Moore is impressive as ever, essentially playing a monster that’s been accepted by society, with Portman’s Elizabeth seemingly absorbing Gracie’s traits the longer she spends with her, almost by osmosis.

And as far as Haynes’ is concerned it’s yet another feature that not only has strong female leads – and yes, Moore again – but is also deliciously layered, albeit just a tad too subtle in places, that could have possibly benefitted with a little more disruption.

we give this three out of five