Our Sundance Film Festival adventure began by immediately setting a high bar with the sophomore film and acting debut (as leading lady, no less) of Cherien Dabis (Amreeka), MAY in the SUMMER.

May (Cherien Dabis), a successful and ambitious writer living in New York with her fiancée Ziad (Alexander Siddig), has come home to Amman, Jordan in order to complete the preparations for her wedding that takes place in a month’s time. In the absence of her fiancée, under the judgmental watch of her born-again-times-ten mother (Hiam Abbass) and the newfound presence of her usually absent father (Bill Pullman) and his new wife Anu (Ritu Singh Pande), May begins to discover that her once structured and well planned future just might be the wrong one for her.

Add her two younger siblings, one permanently sarcastic and the other a big-mouth princess (Alia Shawkat & Nadine Malouf), as well as just the right amount of a curious attraction to Karim the adventure guide (Elie Mitri), and you’ve got all the right ingredients for a climactic meltdown!

Say nothing for the pleasant surprise that is Cherien Dabis’ acting debut, which is notably A-list caliber, she uses her natural directorial and writing skills, as she did both for this one, to create a film that has the perfectBill Pullman & Cherien Dabis in MAY in the SUMMER mixture of breath-taking cinematography (stellar on-location shots of Amman, as well as Wadi Rum star gazing BONUS!), wit in comedic form, and a touching reminder that in the end, the love of family is the strongest bond one can consistently rely on having.

The choice of actors for both leading and supporting rolls put MAY in the position to successfully move the audience at all the right moments, and whether we were laughing at the extremity of Nadine’s newfound Evangelism (Hiam Abbass proved convincingly on the border of obsessive with her love for God), or crying with May’s father as he pleads for another chance to gain his daughters’ love and trust, Cherien Dabis did exactly what many films lack these days by pulling us in to May’s life and not letting us go until the credits surprisingly started and we were left wondering what new adventure awaited her in the future.

In a time where foreign films are still not completely mainstream, MAY in the SUMMER is the perfect introduction for those typically not excited about subtitles with a half and half of English and Arabic dialogue and a wonderfully unfolding story that most can relate to and all can appreciate. You might cry, you’ll definitely laugh, and when it’s over you may have some soul-searching of your own to do. Though it is unclear when MAY in the SUMMER will be picked up for distribution, keep an eye out for this one e-folks, it’s going to be one worth your time.