Men Review

After her husband dies, Harper (Buckley) goes on a rural getaway to try and heal. Once there, she runs into several men (all played by Kinnear), who start acting strangely around her. Intensely creepy goings-on ensue.

by Sophie Butcher |
Release Date:

01 Jun 2022

Original Title:

Men (2022)

With Alex Garland movies, generally, you should expect the unexpected. A body, frozen in death, made beautiful by delicate climbing plants. Human cries for help in the mouth of a skeletal bear. A shaven-headed Oscar Isaac disco-dancing. With Men, the inimitable writer and director moves away from the science-fiction DNA of previous projects — but in digging into the fresh ground of full-on folk horror, he also delivers a film somewhat more predictable, if still compelling, than we’ve seen from him before.


Jessie Buckley is magnetic as Harper, a widow seeking solace from the traumatic events around the death of her husband by heading to a picturesque country house, often carrying huge chunks of the film without uttering a word of dialogue. She encounters multiple men during her stay, which, as we know from the trailer, are all played by Rory Kinnear — a concept left largely unexplained. There’s Geoffrey, the blundering, “very country” (as Harper describes him) landlord of the home she’s renting; Samuel, a schoolboy with a weird mask and a bad attitude (the less said about the CG attempt to put Kinnear’s face on a child’s body, the better — think pre-serum Steve Rogers); a vicar with an antiquated view or two; a policeman with a lacklustre sense of duty; and two menacing pub-goers. Each undermines or insults Harper eventually — some subtly, some not-so — with the usual concoction of sexism, gaslighting and crude banter. Kinnear is astonishingly chameleonic, reinventing himself entirely with every character, and fully committing to the film’s bonkers, bloodier moments.

The horror beats don’t feel particularly new, but they are executed very, very well.

Hoo boy, do the moments get bonkers and bloody — but not before Garland’s notched up the tension so high, the air is thick with it. Your stomach churns with it. Harper’s glimpses of peace are interrupted by near-constant unwanted male presence. The lush greenery surrounding her feels at once freeing and like it could swallow her up. Warped choral sounds, droning basslines and Harper’s melodic yelps into a pitch-black tunnel echo in your ears. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is glorious, jumping from bright, British landscapes and bold silhouettes to glaring, devilish red light in a heartbeat. The horror beats don’t feel particularly new, but they are executed very, very well.

As effective as Harper’s discomfort is — as it turns out, men really are quite frightening — it needs to lead somewhere. It needs to be for something. We’ve watched the harassment of women on screen too many times just to see another movie telling us how rough it is out there to be a feminine-presenting person. Men’s climax is wild, and filled with un-unseeable imagery in a way that will satisfy fans of the gory and grotesque, but too often leaves Harper inactive, watching mind-boggling events unfold before her or being subjected to misogynistic monologuing instead. Though Men’s take on the cyclic nature of toxic masculinity is interesting, and the film around it impeccably made, much of it simply ends up feeling fairly one-note.

Alex Garland once again shows an unmatched ability to conjure a beautifully uneasy atmosphere, the sense of which lingers on past the closing credits — but the substance underneath doesn’t quite connect.  
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