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Men (15)

Cast: Rory Kinnear, Jessie Buckley, Paapa Essiedu
Genre: Horror
Author(s): Alex Garland
Director: Alex Garland
Release Date: 01/06/2022
Running Time: 100mins
Country: UK
Year: 2022

Widow Harper Marlowe recovers from the death of her husband James with a holiday in a rented countryside house. The owner Geoffrey welcomes her to the village of Coston and gives her the keys before Harper explores her surroundings and encounters a menagerie of quixotic locals, who all bear striking resemblances to Geoffrey. Harper telephones her good friend Riley for assistance as events in Coston take an increasingly bizarre and macabre turn.


LondonNet Film Review

Men (15) Film Review from LondonNet

London-born writer Alex Garland came to the fore in the mid-1990s with his novel The Beach, which was adapted for the cinema with Leonardo DiCaprio as the sun-kissed lead. He moved seamlessly from the page to the big screen. Scripts for 28 Days Later and Sunshine, both directed by Danny Boyle, signalled a fascination with the horror genre which percolated in his auspicious 2014 directorial debut Ex Machina starring Alicia Vikander as an artificial intelligence with murderous intentions…

Garland was nominated for an Academy Award and a Bafta for the sleek, suspenseful script and he expertly ratchets up similar degrees of discomfort and tension in this aptly titled phantasmagorical nightmare. Blessed with multiple performances from Rory Kinnear as male residents of a sleepy countryside community, Men saturates a bloodthirsty battle of the sexes with grief, psychological manipulation and toxic masculinity.

Religious imagery suggests a modern-day fall of man but the finale’s spiralling madness is open to interpretation and bewilderment. Garland’s intentions are not clear, concealed beneath layers of prosthetics and stomach-churning make-up effects that recall the bodily mutations of Brian Yuzna’s gruesome 1989 satire Society. Jessie Buckley, deservedly Oscar-nominated for The Lost Daughter, delivers a compelling lead performance as an emotionally brittle widow, Harper Marlowe, who is haunted by woozy, nightmarish flashbacks to her marriage’s grim demise.

A violent altercation with her husband James (Paapa Essiedu), kindled by his calculated threat to kill himself rather than accept a request for a divorce, culminates in the abusive spouse tumbling from an upstairs neighbour’s balcony onto metal railings in the street below. Suicide or accident? To escape slow-motion replays of James’s sickening descent in her mind’s eye, Harper rents a manor house in the sleepy village of Coston.

The bumbling owner, Geoffrey (Kinnear), gives Harper a quick tour of the property, which dates back nearly 500 years in parts, and leaves her the only key. He politely assures Harper than she won’t need to lock the front door. During a rain-sodden gallivant around nearby woods, the widow encounters a naked vagrant, who follows her back to the village. As events in Coston whirl out of control and police respond to an urgent plea for assistance, Harper telephones good friend Riley (Gayle Rankin) for emotional ballast and moral support.

Men is a stylishly executed meditation on misogyny and outdated gender roles punctuated by discomfiting vignettes including a breathtaking scene in an abandoned railway tunnel, where Harper creates a symphony of overlapping echoes that lingers as the soundtrack’s discordant melody. Buckley is suitably understated while Kinnear conjures distinct personalities including a lascivious clergyman, laidback publican and belligerent tyke with a passion for hide and seek. Snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails? Little boys are made of far worse.

– Jo Planter


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