I’m a huge fan of Alex Garland’s work. Ex Machina (fun fact: the first film I reviewed on this site) is one of my favourite films ever, consistently in my top 10 of all time, I’m a sucker for a sci-fi film that takes place with just a couple of people in (hence why Alien is also one of my favourite films), I also really enjoyed Annihilation, just not as much as other people did. Never the less, he is clearly a creative director and has lot’s of talent that gets me interested whenever his next project is announced, Men wasn’t an exception with the creepy teasers and trailers we got.
Men follows Harper (Jessie Buckley), a recently widowed woman who escapes to the English countryside after her husband kills himself. It’s in that small rural village, that something strange is going on.
The only thing I had particularly been aware of before going in to this film was that it had a very strange ending (it certainly does, nothing can prepare you for it), but then I when I went to have a see what people were saying on Letterboxd (follow me here if you like), I was surprised at the level of discourse to the film. The meaning behind the film isn’t subtle, it was there for everyone to see in the teaser and the trailers. I don’t disagree that the lead character of Harper isn’t the most developed character and doesn’t have too much of a personality outside of her trauma that we see, something I wish was developed more.
I think the performances from both lead actors are very strong. Jessie Buckley was nominated for an Oscar this year for her performance in The Lost Daughter, and her star has been on the rise very quickly since her performance in Wild Rose. It’s honestly a surprise that a Marvel, Star Wars or DC haven’t snapped her up yet for a big role in their universe, and probably only a matter of time before it happens. She’s very likeable and gives a strong performance, even if the character isn’t what she deserves, actress that has shown once again, she’s more than capable of leading and that top directors want to work with her.
Rory Kinnear does a great job playing all the different roles of the different men in the village. I think he manages to nail specifically Geoffrey and the Vicar, who are the two we spend the most time with and I would’ve almost like to see him explore more than the handful of characters we actually get to see.
As far as directing goes, I don’t think it’s Garland’s strongest at all. I would say it’s the weakest of his 3 films so far. Some choices didn’t particularly work for me when it came down to the specifics of the film, and the same can be said for the story itself. The ending is wacky and bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and will be the one thing I remember from this film. I was enjoying the film for what it was up til that point, a simple tense horror but then lost me completely when it had a chance to hit it out of the park.
Aside from the acting, the biggest plus point for the film was the cinematography and the use of colour throughout. There are times where the dullness or vibracy of a colour are really impactful and the shot matches it perfectly to give a beautiful looking take. Cinematographer, Rob Hardy takes full credit for this, and has worked with Garland on all his previous films, and is working with him once again on his next project titled Civil War, starring Kirsten Dunst.
Overall, Men is a solid tense thriller that doesn’t really deliver on what could’ve been very interesting. Weaker writing than normal from Garland leaves the audience wanting more and could’ve benefited from being a lot less in your face about the message of the film, even if it did get solid performances from Buckley and Kinnear.
What did you think of Men?