Women directors are set to dominate screens this May. Everything from luxurious Paris vacations to time travel to narratives about grief and regret are represented in this month’s batch of films.
The month’s releases begin May 3 with Jill Campbell’s doc “Mr. Chibbs,” about a former NBA star figuring out his next phase in life. Then May 5 will bring us Ela Thier’s time travel dramedy “Tomorrow Ever After,” the period drama “A Woman’s Life,” and a story about the intense friendship between two mentally ill women in “Like Crazy.” Also out the fifth is Oscar winner Laura Poitras’ latest documentary, “Risk,” which follows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over six years.
May 5 sees the release of “3 Generations,” a portrait of a young trans man Ray (Elle Fanning) as he begins his transition. Directed by Gaby Dellal and written by Dellal and Nikole Beckwith, “3 Generations” has sparked controversy since its Cannes premiere in 2015. Many critics and activists are disappointed that Fanning, a cis woman, was selected to play a transgender character. The film has also made headlines for its “R” rating, which The Weinstein Company is challenging.
One week later, Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer will test their chops as a comedy duo in “Snatched.” Written by “Ghostbusters” scribe Katie Dippold, the film follows a wild daughter (Schumer) who recruits her conservative mother (Hawn) for an exotic vacation that goes horribly wrong.
May’s first few weeks also bring a couple dramas about domestic life to theaters. May 12’s “Paris Can Wait” is Eleanor Coppola’s feature directorial debut and follows one woman’s (Diane Lane) journey of self-discovery as she travels to Paris with a colleague of her inattentive husband. In Robin Swicord’s “Wakefield,” out May 19, “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston plays a husband and father who chooses to isolate himself from the world in his own attic, giving him time to contemplate his life and the choices he’s made.
May 19 is also the premiere of Stella Meghie’s “Everything, Everything,” which centers on a teenage girl (Amandla Stenberg), who is physically incapable of surviving the outside world, and her romance with the boy next door (Nick Robinson).
The final weekend in May features the release of director Cate Shortland’s critically-acclaimed “Berlin Syndrome.” In this romance turned thriller, Theresa Palmer stars as a woman locked in a man’s apartment against her will, who must come up with some way to escape his grasp.
Here are all the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films premiering in May. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“Mr. Chibbs” (Documentary) — Written and Directed by Jill Campbell (Opens in NY)
This observational documentary follows NYC basketball prodigy and retired NBA All-Star Kenny Anderson in the midst of a mid-life crisis, on a journey to find himself. Reeling from his mother’s death and a subsequent DUI, “Chibbs” visits people and arenas from his past, confronting haunting memories, and ultimately finding solace in becoming the father he never had time to be. Combining unseen archival footage with raw moments of reflection, “Mr. Chibbs” is a portrait of an athlete coming to terms with his past as he searches for relevancy in his future.
“3 Generations”— Directed by Gaby Dellal; Written by Gaby Dellal and Nikole Beckwith
Ray (Elle Fanning) is a teenager who is in the midst of transitioning from female to male. His single mother, Maggie (Naomi Watts), must track down Ray’s biological father (Tate Donovan) to get his legal consent to allow Ray’s transition. Dolly (Susan Sarandon), Ray’s lesbian grandmother, is having a hard time accepting that she now has a grandson. They must each confront their own identities and learn to embrace change and their strength as a family in order to ultimately find acceptance and understanding.
“Risk” (Documentary) — Directed by Laura Poitras
Filmed over six years, “Risk” is a complex and volatile character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story with unprecedented access, Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. In a new world order where a single keystroke can alter history, “Risk” is a portrait of power, betrayal, truth, and sacrifice.
“Tomorrow Ever After” — Written and Directed by Ela Thier
“Tomorrow Ever After”
Shaina (writer-director Ela Thier) is a historian who lives 600 years in the future. Humans, at this point, have cleaned up the planet. War, poverty, pollution, greed, exploitation, depression, loneliness — these are things that she’s read about in history books. And while she studied this dark period of history, in which money was viewed as more precious than people, she has never, in the flesh, seen humans hurt other humans — until now. While visiting a group of physicists who experiment with time travel, Shaina is accidentally left stranded in the year 2015. Here she involves herself with a group of friends who are as lovable as they are flawed. As the harsh realities of their lives unfold, she learns what no history book could have taught her.
“A Woman’s Life” — Co-Written by Florence Vignon (Opens in NY)
“A Woman’s Life”
Adapted from the novel “Une Vie” by Guy de Maupassant, “A Woman’s Life” is a tale of tormented love embedded in the restrictive social and moral codes of marriage and family in 19th century Normandy. Upon finishing her schooling in a convent, young aristocrat Jeanne (Judith Chemla) marries local Viscount Julien de Lamare (Swann Arlaud), who soon reveals himself to be a miserly and unfaithful husband. As she navigates his chronic infidelity, pressure from her family and community, and the alternating joys and burdens of motherhood, Jeanne’s rosy illusions about her privileged world are slowly stripped away.
“Like Crazy”— Co-Written by Francesca Archibugi (Opens in NY)
Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is a motor-mouthed fantasist, a self-styled billionaire countess who likes to believe she’s on intimate terms with world leaders. Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti) is a tattooed introvert, a fragile young woman locked in her own mystery. They are both patients at the Villa Biondi, a progressive but secure psychiatric clinic. “Like Crazy” tells the story of the unpredictable and moving friendship that develops between the two women as they flee the mental institution in search of love and happiness in the open-air nuthouse — the world of sane people.
Jane (Amy Johnson) is a beautiful but troubled American girl backpacking her way through Hong Kong. When she successfully fends off three thugs trying to rob her, she draws the attention of Shu (Muriel Hofmann), a Wudang champion, who is impressed by her raw street fighting abilities. Shu recruits Jane and trains her to fight in the vicious, all-female, underground martial arts tournament known as “The Kumite.” After months of rigorous preparation, Jane is ready to face off against the deadliest female fighters in the world, including Ling (Jenny Wu), the apprentice of Shu’s nemesis, Wai (Kathy Wu).
Already respected as one of the best actresses in film, Blanchett raises the bar even higher by playing 13 different roles in “Manifesto,” embodying some of the most influential and emotional artist manifestos in history. (Sundance Film Festival)
“The Drowning”— Directed by Bette Gordon
“The Drowning”: Paladin
“The Drowning” is the story of a forensic psychologist (Josh Charles) who is haunted by his expert witness testimony that sent a young boy (Avan Jogia) to prison for a chilling murder. When the boy later reappears in his life, he is drawn into a destructive, soul-searching reinvestigation of the case.
“Snatched” — Written by Katie Dippold
After her boyfriend dumps her on the eve of their exotic vacation, impetuous dreamer Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) persuades her ultra-cautious mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn), to travel with her to paradise. Polar opposites, Emily and Linda realize that working through their differences as mother and daughter — in unpredictable, hilarious fashion — is the only way to escape the wildly outrageous jungle adventure they have fallen into.
“Paris Can Wait” — Written and Directed by Eleanor Coppola
“Paris Can Wait”
Eleanor Coppola’s feature film directorial and screenwriting debut stars Academy Award nominee Diane Lane as a Hollywood producer’s wife who unexpectedly takes a trip through France, which reawakens her sense of self and her joie de vivre. Anne (Lane) is at a crossroads in her life. Long married to a successful and driven but inattentive movie producer (Alec Baldwin), she finds herself taking a car trip from Cannes to Paris with a business associate of her husband (Arnaud Viard). What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a journey of discovery involving mouthwatering meals, spectacular wines, and picturesque sights.
“The Wedding Plan” — Written and Directed by Rama Burshtein
“The Wedding Plan”
At 32, Michal (Noa Koller) is finally looking forward to the comfort and security of marriage, when she is blindsided by her fiancé’s decision to call off the wedding with only a month’s notice. Unwilling to return to lonely single life, Michal decides to trust in fate and continue with her wedding plans, believing Mr. Right will appear by her chosen date. Confident she will find a match made in heaven, she books a venue, sends out invitations, and buys a wedding dress, as her skeptical mother (Irit Sheleg) and sister look on with trepidation.
“Urban Hymn” (Also Available on VOD)
A redemptive coming of age story about wayward teen Jamie (Letitia Wright), who is encouraged by an inspiring and unconventional social worker Kate (Shirley Henderson), to use singing as an escape from her troubled background. Jamie’s loyalties soon become torn between Kate and her possessive and volatile best friend, Leanne (Isabella Laughland).
“Tracktown” — Co-Written and Co-Directed by Alexi Pappas (Also Available on VOD)
Twenty-one-year-old Plumb Marigold (Alexi Pappas) is a famous but lonely distance runner preparing for the biggest race of her life: The Olympic Trials. But when an injury forces her to take an unexpected day off, Plumb wanders into a bakery where the aimless boy behind the counter catches her eye.
“Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” — Co-Written and Directed by Maria Schrader
“Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” charts the years of exile in the life of famous Jewish-Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader), his inner struggle for the “right attitude” towards the events in war torn Europe, and his search for a new home.
Kate Bowman (Jocelin Donahue) is a straight-laced, by-the-books social worker who finds herself plunged into a world of supernatural terror while investigating a series of deaths involving people who died in their sleep. The victims all reported being terrorized by a dark entity that paralyzed and tormented them, before eventually killing them. Kate is joined in this quest by Evan (Jesse Bradford), an artist who is slow to believe that something supernatural is occurring.
“Hounds of Love” (Also Available on VOD)
“Hounds of Love”
Vicki Maloney (Ashleigh Cummings) is randomly abducted from a suburban street by a disturbed couple (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth). As she observes the dynamic between her captors, she quickly realizes she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive.
“Hindi Medium”— Written by Zeenat Lakhani
“Hindi Medium” is a light-hearted romantic film about a young couple, Raj and Mita (Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar) who live in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, with aspirations to move into English-speaking society for their daughter’s sake. The film traces their trials and tribulations on this journey and the impact it has on their relationship on their family.
“Everything, Everything” — Directed by Stella Meghie
What if you couldn’t touch anything in the outside world? Never breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun warm your face, or kiss the boy next door? “Everything, Everything” tells the unlikely love story of Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), a smart, curious, and imaginative 18-year-old who due to an illness cannot leave the protection of the hermetically sealed environment within her house, and Olly (Nick Robinson), the boy next door who won’t let that stop them. Maddy is desperate to experience the much more stimulating outside world, and the promise of her first romance. Gazing through windows and talking only through texts, she and Olly form a deep bond that leads them to risk everything to be together… even if it means losing everything.
“Wakefield” — Written and Directed by Robin Swicord
Who among us has never wanted to walk away from it all? It is a cold fact of modern life that, some days, everything becomes too much. For Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), New York City lawyer, husband, and father of two, the overwhelming impulse to just leave arises one night as he stands in his own suburban driveway. Howard, however, does not run far. Inspired (or led?) by a raccoon, he enters the attic of his two-car garage, and proceeds to hide there for weeks.
“Paint It Black” — Co-Written and Directed by Amber Tamblyn
“Paint it Black”
“Paint It Black” is the story of the aftermath of Michael’s (Rhys Wakefield) death, and Josie’s (Alia Shawkat) struggle to hold onto the true world he shared with her. As Josie searches for the key to understanding his death, she finds herself both repelled and attracted to Michael’s pianist mother, Meredith (Janet McTeer), who holds Josie responsible for her son’s torment. Soon, the two women find themselves drawn into a twisted relationship reflecting equal parts distrust and blind need.
“Icaros: A Vision” — Co-Written and Co-Directed by Leonor Caraballo (Opens in NY)
“Icaros: A Vision”
Her medical options exhausted, an American woman (Ana Cecilia Stieglitz) travels to the Amazon in search of a miracle. Thanks to a young ayahuasca shaman who is losing his eyesight, she learns instead to confront her “susto”: the disease of fear.
“Champion” — Written by Missy Reed and Sarah Inabnit
Dirt track racer Sean Weathers (Andrew Cheney) was at the top of his game — an unstoppable career, scores of fans, and an adoring daughter. When a rivalry with another racer turns personal, the ego that propelled him to success causes a tragedy, sending his life into a tailspin. Jack Reed (Gary Graham) was attempting to make up for past mistakes. He had prospered as a businessman but failed as a family man. In a sudden turn of events, his chances for reconciliation are ripped from his grasp. Sean and Jack’s lives collide, and an unexpected bond forms between them. Working through a painful journey of healing together, they each learn about second chances and the true freedom only forgiveness can offer.
“The Woman Who Left” (Opens in NY)
“The Woman Who Left” tells the story of Horacia Somorostro (Charo Santos), a woman seeking revenge after being convicted for decades for a crime she didn’t commit.
“Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan” (Documentary) — Co-Directed by Linda Saffire (Opens in NY)
“Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan”
“Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan” offers an intimate portrait of prima ballerina Wendy Whelan as she prepares to leave New York City Ballet after a record-setting three decades with the company. As the film opens, Whelan is 46, battling a painful injury that has kept her from the ballet stage, and facing the prospect of her impending retirement from the company. What we see, as we journey with her, is a woman of tremendous strength, resilience, and good humor. We watch Whelan brave the surgery that she hopes will enable her comeback to Nycb and we watch her begin to explore the world of contemporary dance, as she steps outside the traditionally patriarchal world of ballet to create “Restless Creature,” a collection of four contemporary vignettes forged in collaboration with four young choreographers.
“Berlin Syndrome” — Directed by Cate Shortland
While holidaying in Berlin, Australian photojournalist Clare (Teresa Palmer) meets charismatic local man Andi (Max Riemelt). There is an instant attraction between them, and a night of passion ensues. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance suddenly takes an unexpected and sinister turn when Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment. An easy mistake to make, of course, except Andi has no intention of letting her go again.
May 2017 Film Preview was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.