Reel Ones

The 5 best new movies to watch in May 2023, from Harka to Beau is Afraid

Jacob Stolworthy runs through this month’s new releases to seek out in the cinema

Thursday 04 May 2023 22:17 BST
<p>‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ and ‘Beau is Afraid’ are two of the best films being released in May</p>

‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ and ‘Beau is Afraid’ are two of the best films being released in May

In the month of a new Marvel release, many cinemas seem to forget about the existence of other films.

Granted, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 sounds like an impressive end to this particular trilogy – The Independent’s film critic Clarisse Loughrey called it “the best Marvel move in years”.

But that doesn’t mean you should stray from checking out some smaller releases on offer.

Among the best selection of films being released this month are ones that will transport you from Tunisia to Korea via the suburbs of New Jersey. They are heartbreaking, joyous and confounding in equal measure.

From a teen novel adaptation to a high-concept French thriller, these are the five films to see in cinemas in May 2023.


Release date: 5 May

Lotfy Nathan’s Harka is inspired by Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who died by suicide to protest autocratic regimes in Tunisia. Bouazizi’s act was a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring against corruption. In Harka, Adam Bessa plays a man who faces eviction while caring for his two younger sisters. His dreams of a better life, and frustrations at being refused help at every given turn, makes for a devastating but necessary film. The extraordinary Bessa was jointly awarded Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard for his performance in 2023 (alongside Vicky Krieps for Corsage).

Return to Seoul

Release date: 5 May

Park Ji-min in ‘Return to Seoul’

Davy Chou’s Return to Seoul is a meditation on the often futile search for belonging. The film follows a 25-year-old woman, who was adopted by a French couple as a baby, as she goes back Korea to track down her biological parents. Park Ji-min is sublime in this pleasantly languorous drama with bursts of energy that very much match the temperament of her Freddie. Both Chou and Ji-min have exciting careers ahead of them.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Release date: 19 May

There’s a reason Judy Blume’s teen novel, published in 1970, hasn’t been adapted for the big screen until now. With a fervent fanbase, anyone who touched it would have felt great responsility at ensuring the film did the work justice. Hiring Kelly Freemon Craig, director of superior teen film Edge of Seventeen, to oversee this adaptation was a genius stroke – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret isa charming knockout that’s accessible for anyone, not just the book’s target audience.

Beau is Afraid

Release date: 19 May

Ari Aster follows up Hereditary and Midsommar with a three-hour surrealist odyssey that rarely takes its foot off the pedal. To say Beau is Afraid isn’t for everyone is an understatement – it’s certainly divided critics – but there’s no doubt Aster’s film needs to be experienced to be believed. Joaquin Phoenix plays Beau, a man who faces obstacle upon obstacle while trying to get home to his mother (Patti LuPone). A relentless, disturbing and, yes, hilarious, movie that cements Aster as one of the most exciting new filmmakers around.

Full Time

Release date: 26 May

‘Call My Agent’ star Laure Calamy in nail-biting drama ‘Full Time’

Following a successful festival run, Eric Gravel’s nailbitingly tense Full Time finallyarrives in UK cinemas. The film charts one week in the life of single mother, who lives in the French suburbs, as she attempts to keep her job as a chambermaid during a time of transport strikes and general upheaval in Paris. Laure Calamy, who UK viewers will best know as Noémie in Call My Agent!, delivers a striking performance as Julie, whose stress levels are endlessly pushed to the limit. Full Time is a succinct (the runtime is 87 minutes) and effective triumph.

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