I’m all for weird movies and vague allusions, but this one tested my patience more than I expected.
Following the sudden suicide of her husband, Men follows Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) as she decides to take a quiet weekend to herself in a remote village far away from her recent struggles. Met by Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), the owner of the house she rents, Harper is soon met by multiple men who look just like Geoffrey and who all seem off in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. Also being stalked by some kind of man-thing from the nearby woods, Harper begins to lose herself as her recent personal trauma and the growing evil around her send her spiraling into the depths of what men are truly capable of, and what, if anything, she can do to save herself from them.
I gotta say, I applaud Alex Garland for always swinging for the fences with his movie ideas and although he doesn’t always stick the landing, the experiences are usually worth it, with Men being no exception. From the careful and unnerving direction to stellar performances that sell the weirdness inherent to the script to a story idea that intrigues on a base level, this movie is well done overall, but is ultimately lacking in ways that turn the final cut into something more head-scratching than what was probably necessary.
My main gripe is simple: what’s the point of it all? I get that this is a story about someone coming to terms with her trauma, the idea of being in a toxic relationship, and finally, not knowing how to move on or come to terms with her experiences, but most of what happens onscreen are so drawn out, vague, and too far off from what I feel needed to happen to make this film effective that I genuinely don’t know what this movie wanted me to walk away with at the end of it all.
Are we witnessing a fever dream as Harper’s mind frays at the seams after trying to make sense of her gaslighting husband’s emotional abuse? Are we seeing a weird manifestation of an ancient evil that has latched onto Harper only to terrorize her with multiple men that are figments of her troubled past and current mental state? Does Harper even realize that these men are the same person? Is this all just a story about male toxicity and what women deal with daily, a metaphor for something religious, or just a cautionary tale about something else entirely? I’m into all these ideas, but there are far too many questions raised and not enough answered that left everything feeling unclear to me by the time the credits rolled — a problem that bothered me more than I care to admit. Don’t get me wrong, I think Alex Garland is the kind of creative storyteller that we need more of in Hollywood, but I also think he needed to sit on this script for a little longer before getting the green light.
I’m not gonna say this is a bad movie (because it isn’t), but even with solid direction, acting, and a weirdly interesting plotline, Men doesn’t come together in a way that worked as well as it could have. I want to see more movies like Men get made, but when the final cut only makes sense to the filmmakers or is weird just for shock value sake, things clearly need to be reconsidered.