The Reel Review
Oscar-nominee Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) stars in this psychological horror about a woman who goes on a solo holiday to the English countryside following the tragic death of her emotionally abusive, soon to be ex-husband. There, she is subjected to increasingly disturbing incidents.
At first glance, writer/director Alex Garland (Annihilation, Ex Machina) appears to have crafted a surreal, symbolism filled A24 film about toxic masculinity and misogyny. Using a combination of prosthetics, costume changes and CGI, Rory Kinnear (Years and Years) is a one-man band – the literal face of every man Buckley’s Harper meets. He is the doltish landlord who rents her the house, a creepy naked stalker in the forest, the abusive local vicar, an insultingly aloof policeman, a tavern keeper and its leering customers, and even a rude young boy. He and Buckley give compelling, all-in performances, even though the first half, with its heavy focus on surreal imagery, is often slow and at times boring.
The enormous problem with Men is its completely ridiculous second half, in which the dread and unease is turned on its head, turning the film into a bizarre, nonsensical David Cronenberg-like home invasion body horror. It is so preoccupied with amping up its gross out factor- which is significant in its shock value – that any attempt at a message is lost in its heaping pile of gore. The initial promising Men ends up a maddeningly awful film.
• Alex Garland rose to prominence first as a writer, penning screenplays for the 2002 zombie/horror 28 Days Later, the 2007 sci-fi/thriller Sunshine, and the 2010 dystopian romantic thriller Never Let Me Go that starred Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield.
• Jessie Buckley started her career in 2008, coming in second place on the BBC TV talent show I’d Do Anything. Her film and TV credits include 2017’s Beast, 2018’s Wild Rose, the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, and most recently, 2021’s The Lost Daughter, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.
• Theater-trained Rory Kinnear portrayed the character Bill Tanner in the James Bond films that starred Daniel Craig. One of his sisters, Karina, died from COVID-19 in May 2020.