Alex Garland’s newest film is a stylized incoherent film that tries to fill in the cracks of its narrative with poignant symbolism.
Alex Garland has been steadily creating a body of work worth noting down as one of the best of the last couple of years. I was a big fan of his first film, Ex Machina. I found his style and approach to the overarching narrative to be exquisite. It is easily one of my favorite films of all time plus who doesn’t love watching Oscar Isaac dance in that iconic scene. He would continue on with his next film, Annihilation, which polarized audiences with its mixed reviews. I have heard great things about his FX show, Devs, but have yet to sit down and actually watch it. Needless to say, when the first trailer was released for Men I was eager to watch it. Well, let’s talk about this new horror film from writer and director, Alex Garland.
Men, written and directed by English filmmaker, Alex Garland. The film marks Garland’s return to the silver screen after 2018’s Annihilation. The film stars Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, and Paapa Essiedu. In Men, we follow the journey of Harper (Jessie Buckley) who relocates to the English countryside after her husband commits suicide. Well, the story is not as straightforward as it sounds since a constant presence of toxic men appears around the town that begins to harass her. As Harper tries to figure out what is happening she also must confront the nature of her past marriage and the effects of toxic masculinity that surround the nightmare she is living in.
As always I want to start with the positives because I dislike filling my reviews with constant negativity. I hope that with even the worst experiences I have with films I try to find something that works within the film I am watching. Sometimes there are films that have only one thing that I found captivating and it is important to me to point it out. Jessie Buckley is an incredible actress and her very nuanced work within this film is beyond captivating. It reaches into the deepest levels of your heart and finds a way to universally connect with you. The same can be said about Rory Kinnear’s multiple roles that manage to get so far under your skin to make you uncomfortable. Rob Hardy’s stellar photography throughout the film really captures the visual motifs and atmosphere of the area that Harper is inhabiting. Finally, throughout the film the sound design, visual effects, and score work so well together to form a really creepy tone for the film.
Nonetheless, Men is far from being the perfect film and is Alex Garland’s weakest film to date. The script even though providing interesting themes can never find a coherent execution to present them. Alex Garland has a lot of interesting themes to explore like toxic masculinity and the generational culture of toxicity, but the film never finds a way to concisely represent it. The film’s pacing drags throughout the second act of the film. Once the film reaches its third act it repeatedly beats you over the head with its imagery that the message gets lost within its use of symbolism. As great as the frames looked the message behind the frames constantly got lost within the shuffle of the execution. Even though it doesn’t work for most of its runtime, Men is still an interesting film that is deserving of a rewatch to fully capture what the film is saying. The third act is a glorious display of horror, but we will see what the road leads for Alex Garland. I am still on his hype train, and I am looking forward to what comes next from his directorial efforts.
Watch Men in theaters.