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If you have to watch one Netflix movie in May, stream this one right now

A man raises his hands in May December.

It’s not uncommon to find a great classic movie on Netflix — there are dozens to choose from. If, however, you want to be confident that the movie you pick is actually going to be great and not just mediocre, then you have a problem. Netflix has flooded its own service with so much stuff that it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad.

Here’s the good news: We’ve pulled out the one movie you should definitely make time for on Netflix this month. May December tells the story of a couple who started out when the man was just 13 years old, and spirals out the implications of that twisted, uncomfortable tale. Here are three reasons you should definitely check it out on Netflix.

It features three all-time-great performances

Natalie Portman in May December | Netflix

The movie follows an actress as she visits this couple decades after the woman in the relationship went to jail for sleeping with a minor. Now, the two appear to be happily married, and they have kids of their own. Natalie Portman plays the actress, getting drawn more and more into the world of this family, even as she’s trying to examine all the ways they’re screwed up.

She’s matched by Julianne Moore and Charles Melton as the couple. Moore is all campy excess, and her performance provides a lot of the movie’s humor. Melton, meanwhile, is emotionally devastating from minute one, somehow evoking a child still living in a grown man’s body.

It’s funnier than you might think

A man and a woman sit on a chair in May December.

In part because the story it’s telling is so absurd, May December has plenty of time for over-the-top, campy humor. Directed by Todd Haynes, the movie seems to understand perfectly how to make that humor work without undercutting the raw drama underneath it.

Thanks to a score that comes straight out of soap operas, and to Moore’s and Portman’s performances, scenes that on their face don’t seem all that amusing become downright hilarious, all without losing their more sinister edge.

It doesn’t have any neat or tidy answers

A woman watches another woman handle flowers in May December.

Although May December depicts a relationship that is in many ways disturbing, the movie doesn’t jump to any easy conclusions about its characters or the dynamics between them. The movie has plenty of empathy for Melton’s arrested manchild, incapable of fully becoming an adult because he’s wedded to a relationship he started when he was a boy.

What’s equally important, though, is the mystery around Moore’s character, a woman who seems like she should have some sort of tragic backstory but is in fact totally normal, outside of her emotional neediness and her predatory instincts. May December is complicated and unafraid to resolve in pretty messy fashion, and that’s what helps it stick with you.

May December is streaming on Netflix.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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