‘Men’ (2022) Review

Usually after watching a movie, I can tell you right away how I felt about it. Good, bad… just okay. Admittedly, my opinion may change over time but I can always leave the credits with at least some initial impression. Men is one of the first movies where I honestly couldn’t put into words what I was feeling. Because I didn’t know what I was feeling. I had to sleep on it, digest what I had seen, the good and the bad and try to put my thoughts into words for this review.

I’m still not sure what to say. But I’ll try to make it as coherent as I can! 

Jessie Buckley is phenomenal as Harper, a woman who travels to the scenic countryside to heal after the accidental…suicidal?… death of her ex-husband. She finds joy in her surroundings, at least at first, with something so simple as rain and the sound of her own voice echoing in a nearby abandoned railroad tunnel. But the calming, cathartic environment quickly gives way to unease. Harper cannot flee from the abusiveness of her past because it still lives in her head, haunting her, and as the film progresses, these memories grow more intense and graphic in their visuals to show that Harper has yet to truly process what she witnessed.

I think one could argue that it’s Harper’s husband manifesting himself in the form of the local men within the small village for which she sought refuge. Perhaps it’s also all happening within her mind. But one thing that is very clear is that these men all represent misogyny in various forms. All the men in this film are played to perfection by Rory Kinnear. A sneering young man who calls Harper a “stupid bitch” when she declines to play a game with him, a vicar who seems to understand and want to help Harper’s torment until he begins to place the blame for her husband’s death on her shoulders. Even the kind and seemingly harmless landlord of Harper’s rental is not without a touch of condescension. Kinnear is quietly menacing in every form which is somehow more terrifying than a screaming maniac.  

Director-writer Alex Garland creates an eerie, atmospheric film with enough allegory to satisfy those who love to analyze the deeper meanings in film. Garland goes all in with varied interpretations of the Bible and paganism. For the most part they’re very nuanced, intertwined brilliantly within the story. On the other hand, there are a few moments that basically slap you in the face with how obvious their intent is. I don’t know if that was purposeful or not, but I didn’t really need to see Harper eat an apple – forbidden fruit – from a tree that doesn’t belong to her to understand that she’s about to be blamed for every bad thing that happens to her for the rest of the movie.

Analyze this film as deeply as you wish but the very clear message of Men is that men are awful. Whether they flash you with unwanted nudity, dismiss your fears and violations, blame you for their impure thoughts, lash out due to rejection or just swing a fist out of anger, men cannot and will not let women live their lives as they so choose. The final act is a visceral, bloody reminder that the cycle of men will forever continue as they birth and rebirth their prejudices, indicating that men are born the way they are, rather than taught to be the way they are. 

Sadly, it’s the climax of the film is what lost me. Some rather confusing choices by Garland leaves the potential of Men at the bloody doorstep, deflating the tension with an overlong sequence that will probably leave some people laughing in either discomfort, or amusement. I found it to be effective and horrifying at first, until it kept going… and going… and going. Yes, I get what Garland was trying to say, but I don’t think he executed the message as well as he could have. Instead of walking away with that adrenaline rush I usually feel after a truly great piece of horror, I walked away unsure, disappointed and wondering what it was I just watched. 

Even so, I would probably recommend Men to movie buffs, especially if you’ve loved Garland’s previous work. Personally I thought it was a great movie until the final act and I think I’ll forever be disappointed that it simply couldn’t push itself past the finish line. 

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."