Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu
Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated: R for disturbing and violent content, graphic nudity, grisly images and language.
All media used courtesy of A24
In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, in an attempt to rest and recover. As she surveys the grounds and areas surrounding the estate, she’s greeted by a unkindly stalker who will not leave her alone. Trying to call for help is tough in this town, who all have similar faces and attitudes towards women. What starts as fear turns into full horror is this new psychological thriller that works as a horror film, but fails to hit the higher notes the director is known for.
What if a man were also a Russian nesting doll of other men? That is the question Alex Garland poses in this new horror drama. No, that’s not quite the message for ‘Men’, but I’m still shaken from the final act and can’t help but make a joke to ease my own shock for what was shown to audiences this weekend. Much like ‘Mother’, there is a lot of discussion of whether the message of ‘Men’ was lost due to the shock value of the conclusion.
The suspense building was done really well. I loved Jessie Buckley’s character, reeling from loss but also having very conflicted emotions about that loss echoed throughout her character. Rory Kinnear playing essentially all the men in the film was incredible in transforming into each role. At first it was very subtle that he is playing each character, but ones the third act kicks it everything goes from a home invasion horror to disturbing, and nuanced body horror.
Alex Garland is such a creative mind and I love seeing his films. I would say for ‘Men’ this might not meet the standards set from ‘Ex Machina’. The metaphors can at times seem heavy-handed, mainly in the final act where I think most audiences are going to be split talking about when leaving the theater. I can at one point appreciate Garlands intentions here but the shock value of what was happening took me out of the ability to process, and was just completely disturbed. I’m not sure if people on the fence are willing to re-examine this, but I do think if watched again I would find more enjoyment from it. I’d likely still have the same issues here, but in the end this will depend on each individual viewer.
Overall, ‘Men’ attempts to be too big for its branches, and cannot balance the horror and commentary well enough to feel cohesive. Go in knowing there will be some body horror moments, there will be very disturbing imagery, but there’s also great acting and a semi-strong message.