Movie Review- Men (2022)

The third feature from Ex Machina (2013) and Anihilation (2018)‘s director Alex Garland has been causing quite a stir online due to its ‘horrific’ content and has even prompted walk-outs. Is is as horrifying as sensationalist news articles had drummed it up to be? Yes and no.

The film centers around Harper (Jessie Buckley), a grieving widow who moves to the quaint English village of Cotson to try and rebuild her life. It is here where she is introduced to an eclectic motley of characters, from overly earnest landlord Geoffrey, a bratty young boy named Samuel, a misogynistic vicar and a mysterious, mute nude stalker (all played spectacularly by Rory Kinnear). Her remote haven devolves into a living nightmare as whatever unearthly force is manipulating the suspiciously similar residents of the town converges on her home in an all-out assault on both her body and her already-fractured psyche.

It is a socially incisive thriller exploring the various forms that toxic masculinity takes through the various characters, from the dismissive ‘white knighting’ of Geoffrey, the policeman who waves off Harper’s valid concerns about the naked prowler on her property being prematurely released and the insidious gaslighting of the vicar as he blames Harper for her husbands’ death while consoling her. Rory Kinnear’s exhaustively multi-faceted acting deserves all the acclaim, as he manages to imbue each one of his characters with a distinct personality. It combines this with ancient paganistic imagery a la The Wicker Man (1973) to show how deeply misogyny is ingrained in society. It eventually escalates into a complete inversion of natural, showing the true toxicity of Harper’s co-dependent relationship with her deceased spouse.

But it’s the lofty ambitions of this film that prove to be its downfall. The body horror-filled ending, which has garnered infamy online, staggers for so long that it goes from grotesque to ridiculous, to the point even our beleaguered heroine has had enough. Still, there is some effective imagery to be found (forty-four year old Rory Kinnear’s face digitally superimposed on a schoolboy in genuinely shudder-inducing.) It’s counter-balanced by beautiful cinematography showcasing picturesque British Arcadia and a dissonantly mellow main theme, which sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the other heart-pounding tracks on the main score. If you’re looking for something different, I recommend checking this one out.

7/10

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