Shadow
Men

Men

Synopsis:
A young woman goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband.

A recently widowed woman is tormented during a vacation to the English countryside in . Harper Marlowe () has gone on vacation to the English countryside to recover from the recent suicide of her husband James (). Arriving in the village of Coston, Harper is greeted by her friendly landlord Geoffrey (), who shows her around the house she is renting. However, while going for a walk in the nearby woods, Harper finds herself being pursued by a naked man she finds in a tunnel. This kicks off a sequence of events, as harper encounters much toxic masculinity while dealing with her grief and guilt over her husband's death.

Men is the third directorial effort from writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), which in its simplest description is a folk horror film about toxic masculinity. Through flashbacks, we revisit traumatic events surrounding the death of the protagonist Harper's husband James, who gaslit Harper into feeling guilt over his suicide, which was apparently a response to Harper's desire for a divorce. This backstory ties in with the main narrative, as Harper finds herself cut off from the outside world, save from video calls with her sister Riley (), as she finds herself tormented by the various men of the nearby village.

Having been a fan of both his prior directorial efforts, with Ex Machina, in particular, being one of my favourite science fiction films from the last decade, I have to sadly contend that I found Men to be a bit of a misstep of Alex Garland. I wouldn't say that the film is an outright failure, but it is hard to fully grasp what Garland was trying to say with the film.

Probably the easiest aspect of the film to understand is how the various men of the village of Coston, all of whom are played by Rory Kinnear, each represent a different toxic male archetype. In fact, probably one of the best moments of the film sees Harper speaking with the village vicar, who starts off expressing the intention of calming Harper's grief over her husband's death, before essentially blaming her for the deed.

However, where Men starts to fall apart is in the film's final act, where Garland introduces a vague supernatural element, which includes a very weird and grotesque use of body horror. Here the film goes from being psychological to quite visceral and probably suffers as a result. While I am sure Men is the type of film that would benefit from multiple viewings and much analysis, Alex Garland's latest left me not quite sure what to think.

Trailer for Men

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.