A24's film 'Men' leaves much to be desired
On approximately a quarterly basis, I take a look at the A24 movies coming down the pipeline. This has been the case for around 4 years. I don’t like movies all that much; not because I don’t like where they take me, but because I hate coming back to where they found me. Can you ever truly escape reality? Forgive me, I’m getting my period tomorrow.
If you give a shit about movies at ALL, you’ve heard of and are likely a fan of what A24 has made in the past 9-ish years. If Midsommar, Hereditary, and Zola ring a bell, you may be an A24-head like me.
I stumbled across ‘Men’ on YouTube of all places, but I wasn’t shocked that I hadn’t heard of it prior. Usually, with any new A24 film, I get hit with texts from 100 friends, most of whom have already put the release date on my Google Calendar. To find it fully released without an ounce of fanfare had me thinking that maybe this isn’t one of their best, but regardless I knew it was my duty to dive right in. Caution: there are SPOILERS AHEAD:
With Men, Alex Garland produced a film that is at times a suspenseful thrill ride and at other times extraordinarily uncomfortable. We’ve grown accustomed to this vibe from him as evidenced by his previous films: Annihilation and Ex Machina.
The film begins with Harper, our protagonist, recounting a profoundly traumatic scene wherein she witnesses and makes eye contact with a man plummeting from a building to his death. What we find later is that this man was her abusive husband and just moments before they had had their last fight.
We cut to Harper arriving at a rental home in the beautiful English countryside. There she hopes to escape this trauma, relax, and try to move forward with her life. Things quickly become bizarre. While out on a walk she encounters a creepy naked man who chases her for a time, eventually following her back to the house. Upon realizing his presence in the yard she calls the police who arrest the man.
As the narrative continues two things become clear. There is something disturbingly wrong in this quaint town where Harper has arrived. All of the people in this town are men; different forms of the same man in fact. From the Vicar, who tells Harper that her husband’s suicide was her fault, to the police officer who doesn’t seem to care about protecting her, to the seemingly nice homeowner Geoffrey who by the end of the movie is trying to run her over with her own car, all of these men are out to get her.
There are biblical allusions including the most blatant of which is when Harper picks an apple from the apple tree, seemingly the first domino to fall in this disturbing chain of events. While the precise message of the movie is vague, there is certainly a criticism of the patriarchy rooted in the subtext. While the sensible viewer can see that Harper’s character has been victimized by an abusive husband with mental issues, it doesn’t stop other men from asserting that not only was he not wrong, but that she should’ve done more to prevent his suicide. The scene with the apple appears to point to a parallel from the bible: since Eve picked the fruit, all of the sufferings of man are pinned on the woman in the story.
The emotion and suspense brought out by the film are part of its strengths. Cinematically it is satisfying which is what we expect from Garland’s direction. However, there are times when the subtext is a bit too amorphous and the message that the movie is trying to send is unclear. Overall, the movie is interesting and thought-provoking but no one is going to go around saying it’s the best thing they saw this year. I guess that’s why I found it by accident.
Oh well– no regrets here! If you find anything I missed, you can blame it on the patriarchy, I guess.