By Megan Bianco
Alex Garland’s new film, titled simply Men, is the latest in what I guess we can categorize as “#metoo movies.”
Unlike Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (2021) or Jay Roach’s Bombshell (2019), Men starts as a drama about a woman grieving, before turning into a psychological thriller and then ending with full-on body horror in the climax.
Garland, who started his film career strictly as a screenwriter, has carried his trademark themes and tones into his directorial work. As far as quality goes, Men is a doozy to say the least, even if you’re familiar with his previous work.
Needing some fresh air and peace of mind after witnessing her soon-to-be ex-husband James (Paapa Essiedu) commit suicide while they’re in the process of divorcing, Harper (Jessie Buckley) takes a small vacation in the countryside of England.
What she isn’t expecting to come with the nice, homey house she’s renting is an eerie and surreal atmosphere to linger throughout the visit.
Rory Kinnear plays the landlord of the place that Harper is renting, as well as all the other men she meets in the area.
Ex Machina was one of my favorite movies of 2015, and I enjoyed Garland’s scripts for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Pete Travis’ Dredd (2012). With Men, I feel as if this was a step back for the writer-director and misses the mark.
I don’t like to completely generalize, but many of these movies—where male directors with good intentions attempt to be self-aware on the power imbalance between sexes in society—feel surface-level and heavy-handed.
There’s potential with this kind of message through a male creator. But with Men, it seems as if this certain male filmmaker isn’t saying much besides “man bad, world unfair to woman.” It’s been almost five years since #metoo blew up; give us a little more substance beyond that.
Garland’s usual directing aesthetic and technique are visually pleasing, and there is some legitimate spookiness. But you can get that and better morally executed storytelling with his past efforts.
Unless you’re a big fan of Garland, Buckley and/or Kinnear, Men isn’t a must-see anytime soon.