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Men Review | Movie Metropolis

Alex Garland’s latest folk-horror/thriller Men is one of those ‘marmite movies’. You’ll either love it, and appreciate its utter strangeness, ambiguity and tone. Or you’ll hate it for the very same reasons many will adore it. Alex Garland is no stranger to weird and existential concepts, just look at his last film Annihilation (2018), which had such a WTF- is-going-on-ending that I was quite surprised to see him out do himself with Men

Men follows the story of Harper (Jessie Buckley) a woman in need of a countryside getaway after the shocking suicide of her husband. While in this idyllic but isolated village retreat things turn nightmarish as Harper begins to encounter various men, all creepily portrayed by the brilliant Rory Kinnear, as they begin to make her confront her past trauma. 

It’s hard to admit that I enjoyed this film with the subject matter being so disturbing and strange, but the tone and atmosphere – or as today’s kids might put it ‘vibes’ – are just so unique and engaging. It’s safe to say I don’t think I’ve seen anything that’s comparable to Men. Only something like 2019’s Midsommar comes close to replicating its weird, deranged fairy-tale atmosphere. 

Men is beautifully shot, with many lush and saturated views of the English countryside, but somehow manages to unnerve and unsettle when it comes to its horror aspects. Often things will be framed with something just catching your eye in the background or a person might be hiding in plain sight just out of focus. It helps to create this eerie feeling that our protagonist Harper is never quite as safe as she thinks she is. The film also brilliantly builds tension throughout, with a fantastic score from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow who provide a wonderfully unsettling church-like symphony.  

Men movie still
© A24

Then things go INSANE, in a third act that left me scratching my head as to what it meant and whether it worked in the grand scheme of the plot. It’s this ending that might turn people off, as the film takes a hard turn into body-horror territory that would make even Cronenberg jealous. But you have to give credit to Garland for swinging for the fences in a way that many wouldn’t dream of.

It’s moments like this where Men doesn’t always work as a cohesive/satisfying narrative. It’s got a lot to say about the state of masculinity, particularly the notion of toxic masculinity as nearly all the ‘Men’ in Men highlight deplorable aspects of manhood and their relationship with women. I’ve seen many saying that the film has a number of meanings and messages to it, which it does, the main one being that men are kind of trash! But it’s the other subtext of religion and rebirth that don’t fully come together by the end – which may be purposeful due to the film’s ambiguous nature – but ultimately left me feeling slightly dissatisfied.

The two main performances are brilliant and really do wonders with Garland’s script. Jessie Buckley continues to impress with tragic and relatable protagonist Harper, who does so much with just a look or a line delivery that you really are in her shoes when shit hits the fan. However the film belongs to Rory Kinnear, who somehow manages to portray each ‘man’ distinctly with their own mannerisms and intricacies. You won’t look at him the same way again after seeing Men and that’s a real credit to his performance, and you do see a ‘lot’ of Rory Kinnear!

Overall Men is a surreal experience that will ignite conversation and discussion for anyone that dares watch it. It’s disturbing, eerie and darkly comedic at times, exploring themes of men’s relationship with women, with elements of religion that don’t all come full circle by the absolutely absurd ending. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think I weirdly loved it!?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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