Review: Men (2022)

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Men (2022)

Directed by: Alex Garland | 101 minutes | drama, horror | Actors: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu, Gayle Rankin, Sarah Twomey, Zak Rothera-Oxley, Sonoya Mizuno

For ‘Men’, the latest film from creative jack-of-all-trades Alex Garland, we move to the British countryside. Jessie Buckley plays Harper, a young woman who has rented a house in the countryside to recover from her husband’s recent suicide. What should be a relaxing holiday trip, however, quickly turns into a nightmare. Every man Harper encounters in the area has the exact same face (Rory Kinnear in multiple roles) and every one of them seems out to ruin her vacation. What begins as teasing and childish behavior gradually takes on monstrous forms. Who are these men, and what do they want from Harper?

Over the past twenty-three years as a screenwriter and director, Alex Garland has made a name for himself as one of Britain’s most acclaimed film makers. With science fiction films like ‘Ex Machina’ (2014) and ‘Annihilation’ (2018), Garland has gained a huge fan base. These are skilled brain teasers that don’t shy away from being unusual and complex. With his latest film, Garland tackles horror for the second time (as screenwriter he previously wrote Danny Boyle’s zombie hit ’28 Days Later’, 2002), but that does not mean that ‘Men’ is among the more common films of this genre. can be placed. This is a frustrating, daring, but above all incredibly bizarre film.

While watching ‘Men’ we are constantly reminded of other films. For example, there are strong similarities with Roman Polanski’s early work, especially the claustrophobic ‘Repulsion’ (1965). Harper is frequently reminiscent of Catherine Deneuve in that film. There are also moments of folkloric horror, such as ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973), and moments when the film embraces the home-invasion genre, such as ‘Straw Dogs’ (1971). Then there are grotesque scenes full of body horror, à la David Cronenberg (‘Videodrome’, 1983, and ‘Naked Lunch’ 1991). And when Rory Kinnear shows up as one of the many villagers, we’re reminded of Charlie Kaufman’s work (the repeated use of actor Tom Noonan in ‘Anomalisa’ 2015). Jessie Buckley also played the lead role in Kaufman’s most recent film ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ (2020).

What does ‘Men’ itself mean? Not much thematically. First and foremost, the film tells a story about the spiritual repercussions of violence against women. You can certainly make a suitable horror film about that, and Garland certainly excels at creating a dire sense of unease that permeates every scene. The real problem here is behind Harper’s character. We discover in the course of the film that she was a victim of domestic violence in the past. But do we learn anything else about her? How did she and her husband get to know each other, for example, or how their relationships were at the beginning of their marriage? No. Harper’s past remains a blur, and as a result we lose interest in her.

Yet another problem is that the plot is repetitive in nature. After yet another interaction between Harper and one of the eccentric villagers, we understand. These men are malicious and imperfect. They bring out the worst in Harper. We don’t need to see that in five consecutive scenes. Could have been interesting to show different ranks in misogyny. Misogyny manifests itself in many ways. Then why don’t we get to see this?

Visually, ‘Men’ looks more than decent. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is breathtaking and that makes ‘Men’ always look very attractive. The acting is also solid. Despite her character’s flaws, Jessie Buckley is an excellent performer. This quirky movie would have made more of an impression with a better script. Now this film is only recommended for avid Alex Garland fans and fans of strange horror.

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