Social Anxiety in Movies: May


May is a horror film about a lonely social misfit woman desperate to make friends—by any means necessary.

May [2002]

  • Director: Lucky McKee
  • Writer: Lucky McKee
  • Stars: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris
  • Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller
  • Read: Script
  • Watch: Online or DVD



May is socially awkward and shows some clear signs of social anxiety. Angela Bettis and the filmmakers do a really good job at portraying May as shy, with all the physical symptoms of social anxiety, such as being afraid to make eye contact and speaking softly.

May is fascinated by blood and gore, and she has conversations with Susie, her creepy-looking doll. We see hints in a childhood flashback early in the film that May’s psychological problems probably developed from her mother, who forced her to wear an eyepatch to hide her lazy eye.


I’ve always said, “If you can’t find a friend, make one.”

Some experts theorize that social anxiety develops because of a traumatic experience from childhood. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. I’ve had social anxiety for as long as I can remember, at least as far back as pre-school. I suppose some scarring event could have happened then, spurring my social anxiety, but I don’t remember it.

May watches Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a young man whom she thinks is “perfect”. But she is afraid to approach him and hides, watching him from afar. Likewise, I am afraid to approach people I like, and hope that they will approach me.

May tries in subtle ways to make Adam notice her and eventually succeeds by putting her face in the embrace of his hand while he’s asleep at a coffee shop.


I’m so embarrassed.




I’ve never had a boyfriend before. Do you like me, Adam?


Sure, I do.


You don’t think I’m weird?


I do think you’re weird.


I knew that.


I like weird… I like weird a lot.


You are perfect, aren’t you?


Nobody’s perfect.

Often with social anxiety, we think of ourselves as weird—and maybe we are. But that’s okay. The problem comes when we wish we were perfect, like somebody else. But nobody is perfect. And there is no such thing as normal.

Adam gets a little freaked out by May’s detailed descriptions of animal surgeries at the veterinary hospital, but it’s a bridge too far when May bites his lip while they’re making out and smears his blood all over her face. As a result, he dumps her.

May is feeling down without Adam, but then her lesbian co-worker, Polly (Anna Faris), shows some interest in her.


Do you feel weird doing this?


I am weird.


I love weird.

May isn’t a lesbian, but she lets Polly seduce her because she is so desperate for anyone to like her. Because of social anxiety, I was always afraid to approach people I liked, so whenever someone approached me, I became flattered and strung them along, even if I didn’t particularly like them.

When May discovers Polly has another girlfriend, she is overcome with jealousy. After being rejected by both Adam and Polly, May feels distraught. Desperate to make a new friend, she meets another man. But when he’s freaked out by the dead cat in her fridge, she [SPOILER ALERT] goes psychotic and kills him. May then kills Polly, her girlfriend, and Adam, stealing their body parts to create a Frankenstein-esque mash-up of a friend herself.


You can’t see me.


Can’t see me.


See me! All I want…is see me.

May reveals what she really wants: someone to see her. So to make her franken-friend see her, May cuts out her own eye and gives it to him.

I think everyone wants to be seen and accepted as they are, and people with social anxiety tend to be lonelier than most. That doesn’t mean all lonely people with social anxiety will have psychotic breaks and go on a killing rampage like May. The film isn’t meant to be taken literally in that respect. It is a fantastical representation of the feelings of loneliness, the desire for human connection, and the lengths some will go to be seen.

Reviewing the Reviewers:

IMDb: 6.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 69% Critics – 75% Audience

Roger Ebert: (4/4 Stars“She is shy, quirky, askew, but in a curiously sexy way…. In the best horror movies, the crimes are inescapable, and the monsters are driven toward them by the merciless urgency of their natures.”

Behind the Scenes:


Angela Bettis and Lucky McKee

You can sense the emotional truth behind May, so it’s no surprise that the film came from a very personal place for writer/director Lucky McKee.

“We have all felt backward and socially inept and I hoped that most people could relate. The next step was to go all the way with that feeling and not hold back.” – Icons of Fright

“One of the few things any of us can count on in life is that at some point or another we will be alone. No one is allowed inside our hearts and minds no matter how much we try to put it into words. It gets lonely in there. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, I really really do…but everyone is ultimately alone, even in a crowded room.” –


May is more a film about loneliness than social anxiety, although the latter often leads to the former. It shows the kind of psychological toll loneliness can have on people. Though, as a horror movie, the filmmakers take it to the extreme, dramatizing the desperate measures someone may (no pun intended) go to connect with another human being.

Adam and Polly ultimately reject May, not because she’s too shy or too weird. They both “love weird.” It’s not May’s social anxiety that prevents her from making friends—it’s her psychotic violent behavior.

May is a really interesting independent horror movie, well-made, with fine performances. I can certainly relate to some of the feelings the character of May has, but the film serves more as a metaphorical representation of loneliness than a literal representation of social anxiety.

May as a movie: 8/10

As a portrayal of social anxiety: 5/10


1 thought on “Social Anxiety in Movies: May

  1. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Movies | Tim Barry Jr.

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