Still, Dabis's film is sneakily radical in its portrayal of female bonds, and of May's complex relationship to her family's traditional values: She upsets them by getting engaged to a Muslim but overjoys them by publishing a book on Middle Eastern proverbs. May in the Summer's biggest obstacle is Dabis, who isn't a strong enough actress to sell the subtle humor. But May's two younger sisters, Yasmine (Nadine Malouf), a flighty romantic who has just lost her job, and Dalia (Alia Shawkat), a deadpan massage-school dropout, are funny and sympathetic, as is Elie Mitri in the small role of an amiable adventure-tour guide who indulges May's floundering. Dabis also has a soft spot for scrappy-but-sensitive moms (her first film, Amreeka, followed a Palestinian single mother adjusting to life in the United States), and May's brusque, intimidatingly devout mother, Nadine (Hiam Abbass), is a peach. These characters illuminate the broader truths in Dabis's screenplay, as does its smart treatment of the region's proximity to armed conflict.
One wonderful scene sets the bachelorette party at a Dead Sea tourist trap, where the sisters carp at each other mercilessly until a low-flying aircraft casts the entire resort into silence -- a reminder that no family drama, no matter where in the world, exists in a vacuum.