Alex Garland’s (2015's Ex Machina and 2018's Annihilation) Men feels like a fever dream that’s fueled with horror and allegories. Men covers trauma and grief while sinking its teeth into your skin through that haunting score.
I loved the first and second act of Men but bristled with the third. Actors Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear were both superb. While it may not be Garland’s best work (narratively speaking), it is definitely his most beautifully shot film. Garland is known for making puzzling features, ones that challenge its audience. Oftentimes, Garland's films make you question the very existence of humanity, finding one's purpose in life. Ex Machina was Garland's directorial debut — a science fiction thriller that studied deep questions about technology, sexuality, and the future. Three years later, Garland returned to the director's chair and released Annihilation. His second feature was another science fiction film, but took a deep dive into the psychological horror territory.
Annihilation explored challenging themes about biology, humanity, and grief. The ending to Annihilation is still one that I ponder over from time to time. This leads us to Men (2022) — a folk horror tale that relies heavily on allegories and visual splendor. Sometimes these allegories were a little too on the nose, which is where the final act became a little topsy-turvy. Our film follows a young woman named Harper (an excellent Buckley), who goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband (Paapa Essiedu). While Harper is staying in the village, she starts to be confronted by disturbed and tormented "men," all portrayed by Rory Kinnear. This is about as far as I can go for the plot.
The rest is for you to uncover this bonkers movie. I will say that both Buckley and Kinnear's stellar performances throughout this picture kept me engaged, as did the gorgeous cinematography and cunning sound design. The scenes where Harper walks through the forest and countryside were simply stunning. I was also intrigued by the mystery around the plot because the first two acts kept most of their cards in hand. It wasn't until the third act when the cards began spilling out. Men is a flawed yet haunting portrayal of one's grief. Garland's feature is a type of film that won't be everyone's cup of tea, and that is a-okay. So sit back, relax, and let Rory Kinnear scare the bejesus out of you.
Men is rated R (Restricted) Grisly Images | Graphic Nudity | Disturbing and Violent Content | Language.
Directed by Alex Garland
Starring Jessie Buckley, Paapa Essiedu, and Gayle Rankin. Along with Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, and Rory Kinnear.
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