In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to have found a place to heal. But someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread becomes a fully-formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears in visionary filmmaker Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina, Annihilation) feverish, shape-shifting new horror film.
I’ve found that it’s immensely easier to be a decent person. It takes abundantly more energy to be a repugnant stain of a human being, so why are there so many contemptible fools? Are they evil? Is it learned? Is it trauma? Is it an unchecked privilege? Is it internalized self-hate? Well, it’s probably some kind of combination of a few of them plus a few more. Unfortunately, most of the time, whatever internal issues a person has, those without self-control and who are already not great people, tend to lash out in anger and violence. It’s all a defense mechanism due to their insecurities and since they feel hurt inside they hurt others. Hurt people hurt people. However, it’s no excuse because you can work on yourself, go to therapy, and grow as a person. Make amends and do better.
“At what age did you lose your virginity?”
Elevated horror may have a new champion. At a point where physical abuse, abuse of power, gaslighting, predatory behavior, and flat-out creepiness converge, you have Men. Written and directed by Alex Garland, this film of menacing masculinity is an indelible shock to the system. Standing on the shoulders of possibly the most haunting score of the year, and its terrific acting, this unnerving and provocative cinematic experience is one that you will be dissecting for days. This is a conversation film—meaning that you will definitely want to see this with another person because you will leave the theater with your mind squirming and slightly ablaze. You’re going to need a support system. Its divisive nature evokes handfuls of emotion and depending on how people react to what it delivers, it will let you know what kind of people you surround yourself with. Not shy about what it wants to say or how it sees men, it poses just as many questions as it does a mirror to society.
Set in an idyllic English countryside surrounded by acres of green grass that floods the land and trees that harbor apples, the film coaxes you into a false sense of security with a skosh of awkwardness. Artistically and eerily delving into and exploring masculinity as we know it, the toxicity slowly attempts to engulf and denigrate every morsel of femininity in sight. Full of intense meaning and thought-provoking symbolism, everything is open to interpretation. Days after my screening, I can’t get the film out of my head. Seemingly beginning slow, it unknowingly thrusts you into confrontation and before you know it, you’re gripping your armrest as your stomach does flips. Made in a way that much of the narrative is open for interpretation, whatever apt conclusion you conjure up can in fact be correct. Men is shot and edited extremely well. The production design is fantastic and again, the score is a beast of its own. Alex Garland has done it again. Any film that can excite, entertain, frighten, and provoke a great deal of thought should be celebrated. I loved it. Its rewatchability is high. Also, I recommended a second watch.
Pace & Pop
This film is uniquely simultaneously a slow burn and thriller simultaneously. The story unfolds rapidly yet methodically, it’s rather impressive. What popped for me was how unsettling and uncomfortable the film made me feel. Not only should you feel a wide range of emotions, but what takes place should elicit self-reflection as well as various life experiences—especially as a man.
Characters & Chemistry
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu, Gayle Rankin
The cast is phenomenal. Jessie Buckley proves once more that she is one of the best. Her performance is strong and intense. Rory Kinnear now roams freely in my nightmares. Masterfully playing every man in the film except one, it’s definitely a performance to remember.
Men releases in theaters on May 20, 2022. Stay safe and enjoy.
Runtime: 1h 40m
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Producers: Andrew MacDonald, Allon Reich
Music: Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow
Director of Photography: Rob Hardy
Written and directed by Alex Garland, this film of menacing masculinity is an indelible shock to the system.
Observing the human race since 1988.