The Ultimate First Date Movie–A SPOILER FREE Review of ‘Men’
I honestly did not know what I would expect to see with Alex Garland’s ‘Men’. His two previous films were both knock-outs. I absolutely love ‘Ex Machina’, but ‘Men’ is a bit more of a departure from that and ‘Annihilation’; One that I’m not sure I was ready to take. I’m pretty sure there is an audience for this film, but it’s likely a very niche one. People who give this one 5 stars are probably somewhere between hardcore horror fans and film-photography experts. It’s visually stunning and the mood it sets could be best described as “beautifully unsettling”. However, the muddy narrative and bonkers climax ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.
Dismantle the Patriarchy
‘Men’ centers around a young woman named Harper (Jessie Buckley). She has decided to take time away in a small village in England after the death of her husband James (Paapa Essiedu). Upon arrival she begins having awkward and strange encounters with the men in the village. All of these men are being played solely by Rory Kinnear, but each has their own distinct personality. These encounters each get more intense and unsettling and it begins to become clear that there is something sinister lurking in the village. The being’s sole purpose seems to be to torment Harper. She is now forced to fight for her life and attempt to flee while being pursued by this entity.
Like, I get it…but I also don’t
Oh boy. The story of ‘Men’ is one that I truly had a hard time wrapping my head around. The writing and dialogue are all top-tier. Unfortunately though, ‘Men’ attempts so hard at being poignant it comes off as cryptic. We understand the set-up and why Harper has decided to spend time away, but from here you never really understand what’s going on or why it’s happening. All we know is that men in her past have caused trouble and now the men in the village are causing some trouble. There also is a supernatural/fractured identity aspect to things? I couldn’t truly make heads or tales of it.
I guess what it does have going for it is that it’s a supernatural-horror movie that doesn’t rely on heavy exposition. Although not great for the meat & potatoes of the story, it makes the audience on edge and uncomfortable. There were genuine moments of discomfort for me not knowing what was going on or what would happen next. For all of its unclarity, It definitely feels like too well-done of a movie to sit down and make fun of. We’re not going to sit down with friends years from now and watch this one so we can be ironic.
It’s like ‘The Klumps’…but scary
The acting performances in ‘Men’ are fantastic. Jessie Buckley obviously has reached the status of “Hot-Name in Hollywood” coming off of ‘The Lost Daughter’. She dials up another A+ performance here. The cast is a bit thin though with the only other supporting roles being that of Harper’s ex-husband and her best friend Riley (Gayle Rankin) who she facetimes in a few scenes.
Perhaps the most memorable performance in the film though is that of Rory Kinnear. Best known to me for playing Tanner in the Daniel Craig Bond films, he shows up and shines here. Each performance he gives is unsettling in all of their own ways. It has to be extremely difficult being unlikeable for seven or eight different reasons; all amongst seven or eight different personalities.
What is confusing about this, is that it’s never really acknowledged or discuss that the men are all different versions of the same guy. I mean doesn’t she notice they all look alike? Maybe I just a have the mind of a simple-boi.
Say what you want, but the movie is beautiful to look at and experience.
This movie is absolutely stunning to look at. Not to mention that, the score and soundtrack amplify the mood of this film. My thoughts on the story aside, Alex Garland delivered exactly what he wanted to with this film. It is an absolute MOOD and I was truly unsettled for the majority of the 100 minute runtime. It reminds me a lot of the uneasiness one feels while sitting down to watch a Kubrick movie.
I wish I could bottle-up some of the imagery and music from the movie. It seems like it would make a good 10-hour ambience video on YouTube. Something you could put on while you work to put you in a contemplative mood.
In the end, I don’t know if I could personally recommend this one. I will give it credit for taking some major leaps, but overall I just felt confused. It also doesn’t help that the climax of the film is truly insane. It made me and people around me in the theater noticeably uncomfortable. However, even though I felt that way, I can see why others might like it. It is beautifully shot, well-acted, and sets an eerie tone from start to finish.
VERDICT: 2.5/5 Stars. I originally had it at 2, but gave it an extra half-star for the vibe and ambience.
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