Plot: What’s it about?
The works of Alex Garland, mainly from a writing perspective, have always been a favorite of mine. I first encountered his work when reading The Beach, over twenty years ago. We all remember the film, and I personally liked it, though audiences wanted more of Titanic Leo than this one. Nevertheless, check out the novel or the movie if you’re into something a bit different. Garland has also written screenplays for films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd just to name a few. But it wasn’t until 2015’s Ex Machina that he turned his sights to directing and that’s one that I watch once a year. A few years later we were treated to Annihilation, a film I found a bit less interesting than his prior effort but still one to see nonetheless. We’re now presented with his third directorial effort simply titled Men. From a writer who’s mainly dabbled in the science fiction genre, this one is a bit of a departure. Everyone have their Y chromosomes? Great, let’s get started.
Harper (Jessie Buckley) has just lost her husband (Paapa Essiedu), though it’s not clear if he committed suicide or it was an accident. To clear her mind, she rents out a lovely little home in the English countryside. The owner, Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) is a bit left of center, an eccentric and “creepy” guy who seems to immediately rub Harper the wrong way. As she gets acclimated to her new surroundings, the escape seems to be working. But it’s not long that Harper encounters a series of, you guessed it, men who seem to trouble her. A naked man stalks her and she has him arrested, the police don’t seem too interested in helping either, she meets a teenager with an attitude and finally a vicar who doesn’t exactly tell her what she wants to hear. As things continue to spiral downward for her, it’s at this time that the third act kicks in and, well, to tell any more would be to ruin the movie and I simply won’t do that.
Garland’s films have a way of being seemingly normal…up to a point. I remember the first time watching Sunshine. It was a great science fiction film and then it took a bit of a left turn into…something else. If that kind of thing is what you like, then Men is right up your alley. The film is just edgy and eerie enough that it creates a feeling of uncertainty and that’s part of what makes watching is so much fun. This is essentially Jessie Buckley’s film as she’s in nearly every scene. And if you think you’ve seen Rory Kinnear in more than one role, you may (or may not) be correct. I can see that this might not have mainstream appeal, though I found it intriguing. If movies like Midsommer and Hereditary are up your alley, this one is for you.
Video: How’s it look?
You might not think that a movie that takes place in the English countryside would be one that’d make your jaw drop. You’d be mistaken. It’s not so much that the locale is breathtaking, it’s how the movie was shot. As an amateur photographer, I found that many of these shots utilized a very shallow depth-of-field, we get some very interesting bokeh (the out of focus background) as well as some lavish, sweeping visuals of the oh so green country. Detail is flat out amazing, which may or may not be a good thing when looking at a naked middle-aged man. Flesh tones seem warm and natural. Green certainly plays a role here, though if looked at from a more “spiritual” perspective, it’s clear to see why. This is a stunning-looking film.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments that really utilize all the channels. But this isn’t a movie driven by its audio – Garland’s films generally aren’t. Vocals, of course, are top notch with crisp and clear vocals (thick Irish and English accents aside). The surrounds chime in on occasion and there might be a scream or two that sounded pretty darn good as well. Oddly, while searching around the iTunes store, this has a Dolby Atmos track if watched while streaming though the disc only has a DTS HD Master Audio mix. Go figure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Rebirth: The Making of Men – The film’s only supplement finds Director Alex Garland and stars Rory Kinnear and Jessie Buckley as they discuss the film, what drew them to their roles and the overall theme.
The Bottom Line
This is…a strange one, to be sure. But I like that. Films that are different, require thought and for you to pay attention are few and far between these days. And it’s one that stays with you after the credits roll. That said, it’s polarizing as well. Some might appreciate the “slow burn” of the film and some of the imagery, especially during the final act, might turn some off. Nevertheless, this one is original to say the least. Lionsgate’s disc looks amazing, though with only one supplement it might be a hard sell.