Men (2022)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

, 2022. . Screenplay by Alex Garland. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by , . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

experiences a devastating tragedy whose aftermath sends her on a well-conceived retreat to the country, renting a palatial home situated in a lovely, pastoral village a good four hour drive outside of London.

After being shown around the grounds, she settles in to enjoy the quiet, taking a walk through nearby parks and visiting a local chapel, whose beautiful Christian-themed stained glass overlooks an altar carved with pagan symbols not atypical of the British countryside’s agricultural traditions.

After the creepy experience of seeing a figure running toward her in what she thought was an abandoned tunnel, Buckley discovers something rather disturbing while walking by a row of derelict houses where a railway station used to be. It’s a naked man, or so it seems from a long distance, and when she’s back at the rental property, the same man, naked and covered in cuts and bruises, is now standing outside her window trying to break in (his presence outside her windows while she’s trying to call for help is one of the film’s most deliciously frightening sequences).

The police come quickly and immediately arrest the unwanted visitor, but the snake has entered her Edenic paradise and Buckley is never to be at rest again. While haunted by memories of her manic depressive husband and the gruesome ending of their union, she meets the village vicar who more or less blames her for her husband’s misfortune, then running into the police officer in the local bar is basically told that her stalker has been released for lack of cause and she should stop being so sensitive. What she hasn’t seemed to notice, but maybe we have, is that other than her husband, every single man in this film is played by , from computer graphically altered children to creepy clergymen and everything in between.

The plainly spelled out Biblical imagery gets going almost from the minute Buckley leaves the big city behind, suggesting that we are going to enjoy a perverse criticism of the creation story and its placing the blame for human misery on the weakness of womankind. This being combined with Wicker Man-style folklore also promises something radical and cool, and certainly the more tense sequences deliver twinges of a terrifying nightmare, but in the end what we have is little more than what would happen if Midsommar was written by Charlie Kaufman, with good-natured fun being poked at male fragility: Eve has dared to try and run Eden alone, and for her violation of patriarchal order she is tormented with wounded egos that cannot break their own cycle of violence without demanding validation from her.

Clever stuff, except that Garland, whose films usually suffer from overabundance of imagination and, even when flawed, are impressive for daring to bite off so much more than they can chew, overdoes it in the self-control department. His giving us a memorable (to say the least) visualization of masculine aggression being passed down through generations in the film’s final moments is daring enough to make the experience worth it, but the ending that likely means to be vague is instead smug, dissatisfying and, much like the men that Buckley is dealing with throughout, refuses to properly deal with the issues it has been conjuring for a surprisingly easy ninety minutes.

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