A diverting slice of romantic confusion and family pressures set in Amman, Jordan, writer-director-star Cherien Dabis' "May in the Summer" tells of a New York-based Palestinian American author (Dabis), whose trip to her childhood home to plan a wedding and visit her divorced parents exacerbates long-simmering issues about where she is in life.
In the film, Dabis' follow-up to her Palestinian immigrant indie "Amreeka," May's born-again Christian mother (Hiam Abbass) disapproves of her daughter marrying a Muslim. Meanwhile, May's stab at reconciling with her estranged father (Bill Pullman) reflects her own hesitations about marriage. Even a Dead Sea resort bachelorette trip with her Americanized sisters (Alia Shawkat and Nadine Malouf) goes from frolicsome to fractious, until the roar of a fighter jet reminds everyone that conflict in that region is often a stew of personal and political.
One wishes there were more touches of specificity like that than the hokier romcom stuff, like May's flirtation with a friendly charmer whose adventure tourism business is thematically convenient. But there's goodwill to go around in Dabis' modestly engaging yarn, from its appealing performances to the times it zeroes in on the ways culture, tradition and individuality cause headaches and heartaches as much as comfort.
'May in the Summer'
MPAA rating: R for language.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Royal, West L.A.