Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Gayle Rankin, and Paapa Essiedu
Director: Alex Garland
Three films into Alex Garland's directorial career, female empowerment has been a recurring theme in each of his features. In Men, it’s the strongest theme. Jessie Buckley gives a great performance in the lead role, but this is as slow a burn as you can get, which definitely causes some pacing issues. That said, when the film leans more into body horror in its latter half, I found myself wishing we’d stayed the course, as the slow burn tale felt incomplete. Garland takes big swings here, and I can see Men being divisive for it. Personally, I think it’s his weakest offering.
Whether Men succeeds or not depends on whatever the viewer thinks its goal is. On the one hand, the horror – driven more by ideas than by narrative – is arresting whilst watching it. Jessie Buckley once again wows as the lead, while Rory Kinnear’s chameleonic performance is a near masterclass. On the other hand, it is one of the least commonly accessible films Alex Garland has made, and its unforgettable ending does a lot to boost that distance from the mainstream. For better or worse, this will likely be one of A24 and Garland’s most divisive works.
Men is odd, that’s for sure. For the first two thirds of the film, I was completely enthralled by it. Writer/director Alex Garland masterfully crafted a film that makes you feel uneasy the entire time. Even small, innocent moments can feel unsettling because, deep down, you know something is boiling under the surface. Also, Jessie Buckley is absolutely phenomenal. The last third goes off the rails, though. I do feel there are some things that Garland is trying to convey that I wasn’t able to catch on the first viewing, so a rewatch could help out. It has some issues, but overall, a worthwhile experience.