6.5/10 My 3rd most anticipated film of 2022, my interest in “Men” was solely due to writer/director/genius Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”, “Annihilation”, “Devs”) being behind this A24 release. While there is plenty to admire in this shocking and memorable film, “Men” did slightly disappoint as it becomes Garland’s least accessible film for audiences to digest. Keep in mind too that this is a folk horror film with a body horror ending that will make many sick to their stomachs for its graphic detail and even make some die hard David Cronenberg fans such as myself wince momentarily. As for what worked, Garland is able to take a simple premise (a woman takes a holiday in the English countryside to grieve the loss of her dead husband) and expand upon it very well. The acting is terrific from co-leads Rory Kinnear (playing almost every male role) and Oscar nominated actress Jessie Buckley, who grounds the film. Buckley’s ability to balance a wide array of emotions and Kinnear’s talent to play so many characters in the same film would make Eddie Murphy envious. This is also one of the best film scores of the year, which has been an extremely consistent strength in Garland’s works. The score for “Devs” was one of my all time favorites for a limited series and the haunting score morphs as often as Kinnear does. The film is beautifully shot and stays with you long after you leave the theater. Coming in at just over an hour and a half, the pacing is excellent as the film jumps right in and wastes no time. As for where the film did fall a little short, I must admit that the script falls flat in certain respects. The only issue besides the script problems that I’m about to dive into is the awkward de-aging technology when Kinnear plays a little boy and it never looks convincing. This film seems to be more about the themes and ideas rather than the characters themselves being (no pun intended) fleshed out. Despite Buckley’s terrific performance, we know so little about her, her past relating to anything outside of her marriage, her personal life, interests, etc. Since she is really the only character that warrants development, this lack of personality hurts the film most. While all of Garland’s films (whether he writes, directors or both) deal with deeper, philosophical issues (a big reason why I love his body of work so much), they’ve been able to balance those deeper issues with memorable characters and epic plots. “Men” sacrifices character for themes and the theme of toxic masculinity rings rather hollow here, compared to past issues he has tackled. While his other films may be filled with horror, violence, terror, oddities, etc., they have been accessible to wider audiences. “Men” is rather alienating with its central theme as well as its lack of clarity. While Garland has made known that the film actually happens and isn’t all one big dream or a hallucination, you will feel confused and dumbfounded by the time the ending credits begin to roll. “What did I just watch? What does any of this mean?” While you may be able to uncover what the ending means and get a bit of the Biblical and gendered imagery (apples, for example), you will not have any clear answers compared to other Garland works. While I still give Garland a lot of credit for trying something new, going for broke, delivering one of the most memorable and horrific endings I’ve ever seen and a well made, expertly scored fright, I’m hoping he recovers a bit with his next project; next year’s “Civil War”.

#AManForAllReasons / #CountrymenLendMeYourKinnears / #HellOnBirth / #HesThinkingOfEndingThings / #PlentyDreadful / #ASirOfEchoes

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