The Half of It
This looks like the season’s most genuine youth romance, with a surfeit of sensitivity and a heart big enough to embrace every viewing demographic. Already an award-winner at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, “The Half of It” centers on Ellie, a straight-A Asian-American student with a side business writing other people’s term papers. Soon, she becomes the Cyrano de Bergerac-style shadow author for an inarticulate jock hoping to win over his crush—a simple plan complicated by Ellie’s increasing attraction toward the same person. “The Half of It” is writer-director Alice Wu’s first feature since her acclaimed 2005 breakthrough “Saving Face.”
Available May 11:
Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics
Drugs are the great equalizer, as this Netflix documentary about mind-bending experiences—with a celebrity bent—reveals. Famous partakers in hallucinogens, including Sting, A$AP Rocky, Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller, Grateful Dead band members and even the late Carrie Fisher share their euphoric highs and nightmarish lows through a vibrant pastiche of formats, including animation, re-enactments, fictional PSAs and more.
Available May 22:
One of the first, if not the first, major Hollywood theatrical releases to be pulled from cinemas before its opening date and distributed on Netflix instead, “The Lovebirds” is an action-comedy caper with a pleasingly multiethnic cast. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani play a couple whose date is interrupted when their car is requisitioned by a shady “policeman” who produces a dead body and promptly disappears. It’s up to these unlikely sleuths to hunt down their carjacker and fine-tune their relationship in the process, with much high-jinks in store. Anna Camp and Paul Sparks costar.
ON AMAZON PRIME
Available May 15:
Jean Seberg, the American star of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 international breakthrough “Breathless,” is the subject of this biopic from stage director Benedict Andrews. Kristen Stewart has earned copious praise for embodying the renegade actress, whose pixyish look belied a relentless spirit of activism—against the horrors of Vietnam and civil-rights abuses in the U.S.—that made her a highly visible enemy of the state. The excellent cast also includes Jack O’Connell, Zazie Beetz, Stephen Root, Vince Vaughn and Anthony Mackie.
Available May 29:
The Vast of Night
This nostalgic science-fiction mystery, set in the waning days of the 1950s, pairs a winsome switchboard operator with her radio DJ friend as they attempt to identify the strange audio frequencies that have gripped their New Mexico town. With its merger of the eerie and the wholesome, the likeable trailer suggests “The Vast of Night” is cut from the same Spielbergian cloth as the endearing “Super 8.”
Available May 8:
One of the messages of this accidentally prescient documentary? Quarantine yourself for long enough, and you’re bound to go a little nuts. “Spaceship Earth” is about the eight individuals who spent two years inside Biosphere 2, an engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem, beginning in 1991. It was supposed to be a primer for the potential terraforming of another planet, but it ended up being a reality-show drama of cultish proportions in which, as one survivor documents, “everything that could do wrong” went wrong. It’s like the Fyre Festival with an aeronautics degree!
Available May 22:
The Painter and the Thief
In what looks to be a transcendently moving experience, this documentary follows a Czech artist who attempts to track down a thief who stole two of her paintings. When she does, an unlikely bond forms that will impact both of them in permanent and unexpected ways. It’s one of those stories that any nonfiction artist would salivate to discover, and if early reviews are correct—it boasts a 100-percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes—filmmaker Benjamin Ree strikes the perfect tone of surprise and compassion.