Director: Alex Garland
Runtime: 100 minutes
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Pappa Essiedu
Synopsis: In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.
From visionary filmmaker and novelist, Alex Garland [Ex Machina (2015), Annihilation (2018)] Men is his feverish, shape-shifting new film in the folk horror genre – a complex, metaphorical film about grief, toxic masculinity, and PTSD.
Jessie Buckley [The Lost-Daughter (2021); I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020); Chernobyl TV series (2019); Wild Rose (2018); Beast (2017)] is superb as the central character, Harper, a strong-willed and independent woman who heads to the English countryside following the death of her husband. But an unmissable series of multiple characters is played by the highly talented Rory Kinnear [Ridley Road TV Series (2021); No Time to Die (2021); Years and Years TV (2019) Peterloo (2018); National Theatre Live: Macbeth (2018)] who is totally mesmerising as he delivers a career best and brings uncomfortable and unsettling insights into every character.
When Harper sets off to a house in a remote village in the bucolic English countryside it is to recover and come to terms with the death of her ex-husband, James [Paapa Essiedu – I May Destroy You TV Series (2020); Gangs of London (2020); Press 2018)]
The grand Elizabethan country house belongs to a local man called Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear). Harper is haunted by her own memories and soon it seems, by Geoffrey – and myriad other Geoffreys in this village.
Harper’s fear– that all men are the same, dangerous and toxic — manifests itself in a deranged and surrealistic way throughout Alex Garland’s twisted tale, which is reinforced by the outstanding cinematography of Rob Hardy, with skillful camera work that brings all the nightmare, creepy disturbances to life. The beauty of the Hertfordshire countryside is sharply contrasted with the visceral, prickly and creepy denouement.
This and the outstanding acting performances and evocative score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, which features pioneering 1970s singer songwriter, Lesley Duncan singing ‘Love Story’, all contribute to the jarring and divisive effect of freaky Wicker Man type vibes and a squirm inducing finale.
Men defies narrow definition as a horror film and avoids familiar tropes and is constantly surprising at every opportunity; it is a film the viewer is unlikely to forget.
Images courtesy of : A24/Kevin Baker