BY MIRIAM RINN
Cherien Dabis is a woman of many talents. In addition to being the film’s writer/director, she has taken on the lead role in her gently amusing family comedy “May in the Summer.” A striking brunette, Dabis plays May Brennan, an American author with Arab roots who returns to Amman, Jordan to prepare for her upcoming wedding. Her devoutly Christian mother lives there, and May’s two sisters have also traveled to Amman from the U.S. for the wedding. May’s fiance, a Muslim scholar of contemporary Arab culture, is still in New York, however, and not scheduled to arrive for a few days. That gives May, her anti-Muslim mother, her giddy sisters, and her estranged American diplomat father plenty of time to get into variously silly and serious situations, which arise partially from the clash of West and East and partly from the mundane trauma of going home to your nutty family.
Dabis’s last feature “Amreeka” dealt with a Palestinian woman who comes to the U.S. to build a new life for her son, and in the unfortunately titled “May in the Summer” an American woman makes the return trip. May and her sisters are Westernized young women with higher educations and tight jeans who find themselves in a society that while modern is still ambivalent about women’s self determination. May runs every morning through the streets of Amman to the shocked or leering reactions of the people she passes. Her sister Yasmine (Nadine Malouf) has left her marketing job in murky circumstances and is spending her time partying in Amman. Her other sister Dalia (Alia Shawkat) has never had a boyfriend and seems to have no interest in finding one.