Lucky McKee’s directorial debut May is a psychological horror/thriller film released in 2002 starring Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, and James Duval. Combining the elements and conventions of horror and slasher, it is an oddly moving, distinctive, and discomforting film about the desperate need and desire for human touch and belonging. It follows a socially awkward and lonely veterinary assistant with a lazy eye, and her increasingly desperate attempts to connect with the people around her. When the simpering woman-child is rejected by her crush with perfect hands and everyone around, she descends into depravity and decides to build a friend for herself, using the body parts of her former acquaintances.




May captures the way extreme isolation and stress can stir up disturbances in a woman’s conscience. Mckee draws inspiration and influence from several horror predecessors and amalgamates together to bring about a neo-feminist camp horror. Primarily, it takes reference from Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein which features a loner creating life from the body parts he amassed. It also fashions its story from Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror Carrie, which deals with an intensely awkward, virginal girl who has been wounded by society and finds deadly revenge. The film also alludes to Abel Ferrara’s feminist-themed exploitation of Ms. 45, Roman Polanski’s psychological horror Repulsion, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day.

The title performance by Angela Bettis as a twisted and terrifying young woman who slides slowly into sadness and madness earned this film’s success. This write-up provides a holistic understanding of the film delving into its major themes and motifs. Refrain from reading the article if you haven’t watched the movie as the article may contain major spoilers.




May (2002) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

PROLOGUE

May opens with a disturbing image of the eponymous character May (Angela Bettis) who is screaming in front of the mirror, clutching her hand over the bloody part of her face where her right eye should be. Interspersed with the body parts of dolls falling down a dark background, we witness a few montages from May’s troubled childhood. Her mother (Merle Kennedy) tells a young May (Chandler Riley Hecht) that she has one lazy eye, but nonetheless, she is going to make her look perfect. A couple of days later, when May goes to school, her mother makes her an eyepatch so that she will be able to make friends, but everyone calls her a pirate and she ends up becoming an outcast. On her birthday, May’s mother gifts her a glass-encased creepy and weird doll named Suzie, and suggests, “If you can’t find a friend, make one.” May’s nit-picker mother tells her that Suzie was the first doll she ever made and she was her best friend – while also insisting that the doll never be removed from its glass display case or touched by May.

WHY IS MAY ATTRACTED TO ADAM?

Flash forward to the present, MayDove Canady is a lonely and weird young woman in her mid-twenties who is shy, infantilized, and deprived of human contact. As an adult, she is still surrounded by dolls, and her only friend appears to be Suzie, the doll gifted by her mother, with which she constantly interacts about her day-to-day events. She longs for “a real friend – someone I can hold”, but deters others with her own oddity. To beat her social isolation, May consults her optometrist, who fixes her lazy eye, first with glasses, then with contact lenses. When she meets the seemingly perfect Adam Stubbs (Jeremy Sisto), a local mechanic, she feels attracted to him and develops an obsessive fixation on his hands, which she considers to be the most attractive part of him. She lightly stalks him and skulks around trying to find instances to talk to him, and even caresses her own face against Adam’s hand while he is nodded off in a coffee shop.




Despite her quirky and freaky nature, she is also artistic and creative, eats junk food and drinks sugary drinks, and works a gruesome job. May works as a vet assistant, helping the veterinary doctor with surgeries and sewing operated animals in a lower-class section of Los Angeles. She is also an amateur seamstress who sews her own clothes and makes dolls. May’s chatty lesbian colleague Polly (Anna Faris), the receptionist at the clinic, begins to show interest in May and occasionally flirts with her. One day, May remarks that Polly has a beautiful neck. Polly is always open to new experiences. When May cuts herself with a scalpel, Polly is fascinated. Unexpectedly, May cuts her. Polly recoils and screams at first but then she says, “I kind of liked it. Do me again.”

One day, May meets Adam at the local laundromat and introduces herself after offering him detergent. Adam teaches her to smoke cigarettes and teases her when he realizes that she has never smoked before. He gives her his pack of cigarettes and tells her to practice. May is ecstatic and tries to impress Adam by obsessing over her outfits, trading her glasses for her contacts, making her voice softer, and starts smoking cigarettes just because he tells her to. She times her lunch breaks with him in order to meet with him. They meet again in a park and share a sandwich. When he asks her to describe some of the weird stuff that goes on at the animal hospital, she relishes grossing people out with her graphic descriptions of the gorier aspects of her work. Adam is intrigued by her in a curiously sexy way while she continues to fixate on his hands.

WHAT HAPPENED DURING MAY’S DATE WITH ADAM?

On their first date, May reveals that she never had a boyfriend before and warns him that she is a little bit “weird.” But he assures her and tells that, “I like weird. I like weird a lot.” Adam invites May to his apartment where he shows off his aspiration to become a filmmaker. During their first kiss, she follows her doll’s crazy instructions on the proper way of kissing and sinks her teeth into his lip. She blames Suzie for ruining her date and slams the glass case injuring herself. Meanwhile, Polly gives May her pet cat, Loopy because her landlady refuses to have pets around.




Since Adam doesn’t return her calls, May goes to his home and invites Adam to her apartment. He shows her a film that he made for his university titled ‘Jack and Jill’.The black-and-white silent film reveals a story of two young lovers, who go on a picnic and end up eating each other. May becomes aroused by the blatant cannibalism in the film, gets carried away, and bites Adam on the lip during an intense make-out session. It causes Adam to bleed profusely. When Adam reacts in pain and asks her for a towel, May seems to like seeing his blood on her and says that it was just like his movie. He becomes alarmed by her strange personality and abruptly leaves disturbed by the turn of events. May feels guilty and blames her doll Suzie for her bad choices. She shouts at her and shoves her into the cupboard. When Adam stops calling her, May goes to his house and accidentally overhears Adam calling her a lunatic and how he successfully escaped her.

HOW DID MAY’S DOLL SUZIE GET DESTROYED?

May goes home heartbroken and receives a message from Polly inviting her over. During their conversation, May tells Polly that she is “weird.” Again, like Adam, Polly reassures May that, “I love weird.” May starts a romantic affair with Polly. When she sees blind children playing in the park near the clinic, she inquires about volunteering at the school for disabled children. She takes a liking to a sullen young girl named Petey, whom she identifies with. Petey also likes May so she gives her an ashtray made of clay with May’s name carved into the center of it. The following day, May goes to see Polly but feels rejected when she finds Polly with Ambrosia and she understands that Polly wants to see other girls too. Later that day when May finds Adam at the laundromat, she cheerfully greets him but he leaves suddenly saying the machine is broken. When she realizes that the machine works, she comprehends that he doesn’t want to talk to her. May feels miserable returning back home and when Loopy refuses to comfort her, she becomes enraged and throws the clay ashtray at the cat, striking it on the head and killing it.




May isolates herself in her apartment and becomes a delusional mess, thinking that her doll Suzie is talking to her through a series of crackles from her glass case. When May tries to phone Adam, he avoids her conversation and brushes her off, furthering her grief. When May was conversing, Suzie’s case appears to be cracking and May figures out that Suzie is jealous and is interrupting their conversation. The next day, she forgives Suzie considering that she is her only true friend. May takes Suzie to the blind school and tells the children that Suzie is her best friend. The children want to touch it and struggle to take the doll out of the glass case. Despite May’s efforts to keep the doll away, the case shatters. The children crawl to the floor looking for the doll and cut their hands and knees. May gets down to rescue Suzie and cuts herself in the process. However, Suzie is totally destroyed and is covered in blood.

MAY (2022) MOVIE ENDING, EXPLAINED: WHAT PROMPTS MAY TO BECOME A FEMALE FRANKENSTEIN?

May returns home with the dismantled doll and feels irritation in her eyes. She finds her eyes bloody and begins wearing glasses instead of contacts again. The following day, May meets a punk boy named Blank (James Duval) on a bench at the bus stop. She muses that “so many pretty parts, but no pretty wholes”, indicating how people are not entirely perfect, but only have perfect parts. May doesn’t like him at first, but when he tells her that he was being friendly, she remarks that she likes his tattoo. They go to May’s apartment but Blank finds the cat’s corpse in the freezer. Panic-stricken, he calls her sick and a “freak” which infuriates her. She stabs him with a pair of scissors in the head. She calmly smokes a cigarette, and claims, “I need more parts.” She is planning to create a perfect friend made of perfect parts from all the people she thought were her friends.




HOW DOES MAY CREATE AMY?

On Halloween night, May puts on a homemade costume similar to Suzie’s dress, straightens her hair, and puts on white facial powder as well as blood-red lipstick. She buys a large ice cooler hooked on a dolly and goes out to hunt. Adopting a normal and brave personality unlike her stammering child-like conduct, she goes to Polly’s house first. While having a casual conversation, May slits her throat with a pair of surgical scalpels she stole from the clinic. When Ambrosia arrives home, she praises and admires her long legs, and then stabs her in the temples. Lastly, she visits Adam and his new girlfriend Hoop at his house, much to his annoyance of Adam. When Adam refuses to touch her face, May murders both of them with the scalpels, stabbing Adam in the stomach and his girlfriend in the neck.

At home, she is designing her new friend, a life-sized Frankenstein-like doll from her deceased friends. May’s creation is comprised of Adam’s hands, Blank’s torso and arms, Polly’s perfectly formed neck, Ambrosia’s legs, Hoop’s ears, and presumably Loopy’s fur for hair with her former doll Suzie’s eyes. Using the broken remnants of her“MAY” ashtray, she forms an anagram and names the doll “AMY”. May then changes her Halloween costume and washes off the blood, and reverts back to her infantile personality. When May realizes that Amy has no eyes and cannot see her, she gouges out her lazy eye. Crying in pain and bleeding, she places her eye on Amy’s head and sobbingly begs the doll to look at her. Exasperated, she collapses on the bed beside the doll and caresses it. In a final dying hallucination, May sees her creation comes to life and strokes her face affectionately to comfort her with Adam’streasured hands. May smiles contentedly that she finally has a best friend.

May (2002) Movie Ending Explained

MAY (2002) MOVIE THEMES, EXPLAINED:

SOCIAL ALIENATION AND DESIRE FOR COMPANIONSHIP

The film painstakingly deliberates on the human desire for companionship and the experience of loneliness and alienation in the absence of social connections. As a child, May was permanently ostracized by those around her when she wore an eye patch over her lazy eye to school. Her warped upbringing and the fussiness over her perceived defect left her devoid of friends and in isolation. Suzie, the doll gifted by her mother, was her lone confidante, with whom she communicates without reserve. Due to her lack of social skills, she becomes painfully shy, yet mysterious and receptive, and her awkwardness and eccentricities seem benign and appealing. This quality attracts Adam and Polly to pursue a romantic relationship with her. However, when Adam realizes that he doesn’t like this kind of “weird” and lacks the social graces to read the signals, she is rejected and pushed away. Her attempts at socializing and making friends turn out to be a disaster as others find her nature to be creepy and eerie. When all efforts fail and everyone shuns her, May realizes that she should matters into hand and create her own companion, reminded of her mother’s adage, “If you can’t find a friend, make one.”




THE MYTH OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

May utilizes the myth of Frankenstein’s monster with a gender twist. While Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) embodies the concept of unrestrained godlike science, May is the victim of loneliness and her warped perception of companionship. May adapts the classic Frankenstein story and exhibits signs of both the scientist and the monster. We can draw a parallel between the scientist Victor and May as they both collect parts and sew them together to create a new being. However, May goes on a killing spree collecting the beautiful parts she found attractive in order to create a pretty and attentive friend. We are able to draw a comparison between Frankenstein’s monster and May as they both are the loneliest beings, rejected by the world and even by those who created them. May is deserted in a world full of people, without friends or family, because no one accepts her quirky self.

When her relationship with everyone including Suzie collapsed, as a last resort, she resolves to sew herself a new friend, a Frankenstein-Esque life-sized rag doll. She also makes the ultimate sacrifice of gouging her own eye to give the creation the gift of sight. After going through a lifetime of loneliness and trying hard to fit in, she finds a human connection with her creation Amy when she imagines that her creation affectionately stroked her cheek.




QUEST FOR PHYSICAL PERFECTION

May thematically explores the obsession with bodily perfection and the objectification and dehumanization of the human body that reduces them to their parts. The titular character May sees herself as an assortment of parts due to her amblyopia aka “lazy eye”, a characteristic fixated upon by her mother that defines how May sees herself. A perfectionist and a fusspot, May’s mother was disappointed by May’s perceived imperfection or defect and couldn’t accept any part of her daughter that is less than perfect. As a result, May feels the same about her own body and views other people this way. She is obsessed with her eye, which is constantly trying to fix. She is self-critical and views herself as an amalgamation of defective parts, and that in itself establishes her own low self-worth. She is also captivated by the beautiful parts of others and remarks, “so many pretty parts, but no pretty wholes.”

Instead of accepting them as complete beings, she envisions a perfect being that she can assemble, just like the mad scientist Frankenstein who fashioned his monstrous creation. Her desire to combine perfect pieces resulted in the creation of Amy. The societal expectations of physical perfection and her mother’s fixation with confirming to notions of idealized beauty turned May into a cannibalistic outrage.

Read More: Old People (2022), On Netflix, Explained

May (2002) Movie Trailer

May (2002) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
May (2022) Movie Cast – Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, James Duval, Nichole Hiltz
Where to watch May

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