This town needs an enema.
What should’ve been a festive Mayday celebration in a small English town, turns into a mystery, when fourteen year old Hattie Sutton vanishes. Hattie is supposed to be this year’s May Queen, but as the parade begins, she is nowhere to be found. This unleashes a town-wide search, as the eyes of suspicion point to anyone with a pulse.
Hattie is unlike most girls her age. She feels a deep connection to the earth, and the natural forests that surround her picturesque little hamlet. Hattie is so committed to saving these natural resources, that she spearheads a protest against a construction project called Carol’s Field…and wins! What fourteen year old girl has the tenacity to take on such a fight? The kind of girl who might be a big enough threat, that someone sees fit to make sure she never causes trouble again.
Mayday is a five-part mini-series, brought to us by our English friends at the BBC. Written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip, it is a brilliantly conceived story, full of twists, turns, and all kinds of red herrings that make you believe everyone in this Godforsaken town is complicit.
The quirkiness of Mayday, as stated in the bonus features, was intended to have the feel of Twin Peaks. Mayday is part police procedural and part mystical fantasy. It does a great job of meshing these two genres together, thanks to Ip and Court’s wonderful script, and of course a stellar cast.
Hattie is played by Leila Mimmack (Son of God), who also plays Hattie’s twin, Caitlin, the exact opposite of her sister. While Caitlin has chosen a Goth look, replete with dark hair and clothing, Hattie’s attire is more the granola-eating, hippie style of dress. It’s obvious from her look and her acting out, that Caitlin knows her parents merely tolerate her presence. Hattie is their favorite, and Caitlin is doing her very best to be nothing like her angelic twin. Mimmack does a superb job of being those two very different sisters, and she stands toe-to-toe with the more established actors in the series.
In fact, this ensemble cast has an embarrassment of riches. Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) is Everette Newcombe, a widower who’s spent the years since his wife’s death partying hard, sleeping around, and alienating his one and only son Linus (Max Fowler, Rage). Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) is Fiona Hill, a former police officer who’s now a stay-at-home mom of three adorable children. After Hattie’s disappearance, she begins her own “off the record” investigation. And with her husband, Alan (Peter McDonald) acting very suspicious, she may not like what she finds.
Gail Spicer (Lesley Manville, Maleficent), and her husband Malcom (Peter Firth, The Hunt for Red October) are an affluent couple who live in the biggest house in town, and aren’t ashamed to show off their wealth. Malcolm is the developer behind Carol’s Field, the project stopped by Hattie. When Gail finds out Malcolm wasn’t actually walking the dog on his evening strolls, she begins to wonder just where her husband was when Hattie went missing.
Then there’s Steve Docker (Sam Spruell, The Hurt Locker), Hattie’s uncle, and older brother to the mentally unstable Seth (Tom Fisher). Steve is worried because of Seth’s outbursts, which puts him under the Hattie microscope. But the stench of suspicion surrounds Steve as well, and makes one wonder whether he is involved with her disappearance.
Mayday does a fantastic job of leading us down one path, only to pivot on a dime in whole different direction. As a viewer, we never know who to trust, who has knowledge of poor Hattie’s predicament, or even if Hattie is really missing. It is a truly baffling experience I absolutely enjoyed. The townsfolk in Mayday are people you might find quite unlikable, but as the layers are peeled away, we see that no one is as they appear. These are fallible beings who go to all sorts of shady lengths to protect those they love, even if the ones they’re protecting may be the culprit behind a young girl’s disappearance.
Mayday is presented in standard def 1.78:1 widescreen. This quirky little town is beautiful, in spite of its ugly secrets, and the cinematography shows that beauty in the midst of it all. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is wonderful, whose soundtrack is able to express the intensity and suspense of the scene, without being intrusive. It did take me some time to acclimate to those thick accents, but it never hindered my enjoyment. Extras include a making-of featurette and a photo gallery.
Mayday is a lot of fun. This wonderful mystery had me hooked me from the very first scene, and left me wanting more. I flew through these five episodes in record time, each one more captivating than the last. That said, I think I’ll steer clear of any Mayday celebrations, for the foreseeable future.