Men SPOILER FREE Review – Women Collectively Screaming ‘I Didn’t Sign Up For This S**t’

by Beanie White

“What haunts you will find you” followed by the title… Men. I find myself more than a little perversely amused by this promotional decision, I feel like women all over the world can share in an ironic dark little smile at the sheer accuracy of the tagline and the title. Yes, men do haunt us. Yes, men do find us and nope they aren’t all interwoven caricatures played by the splendid Rory Kinnear. Sometimes they’re much better, and sometimes they’re a hell of a lot worse… There is, of course, some irony in the fact that Men (2022) is written and directed by a man, Alex Garland of Ex Machina (2014) and Annihilation (2018) fame.

After the death of her husband, James (Paapa Essiedu), Harper (Jessie Buckley) decides to retreat to an idyllic little manor house in the British countryside village of Cotson. An eerie lack of women and a few too many men sharing the same face don’t seem to deter her at first until she is stalked by a mutilated naked man. Haunted by men in both the past and present, Harper must figure out exactly what is going on in Cotson…

As Wild River’s resident little horror voyeur and a big, big fan of women-led, women-centric horror I simply cannot understand why this movie isn’t being received better. For a start, Jessie Buckley is flawless, vulnerable in her initial terror before shifting to a strong state of “I did not sign up for this sh*t.” Her resigned eye-rolling manner in the latter half of the film is sheer genius and a perfect reflection of what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

Men (2022) gives us a fine selection of visual and aural elements. This includes biblical and religious imagery, gruesome references to folk horror, horrific flashbacks and a silent simmering sense of dread each and every time we see Kinnear’s sad scarecrow of a figure as he turns himself into the legendary being: The Green Man. Our ears are blessed by Jessie Buckley’s harmonious little duet with herself in the abandoned tunnel right before a moment of terror sends her crunching back through the leaves of the autumnal British countryside, a sight very familiar to me as a gal hailing from Wiltshire. The natural elements become integral to the story, the loneliness of green and the twigs and leaves stuffed into the face of her stalker could be visual signals of the rebirth which is what The Green Man is said to stand for. After all, Harper comes to the countryside to heal from her trauma… And rebirth is DEFINITELY a theme further towards the end of the movie (ugh you’ll see what I mean).

The consensus with complaints from critics and audience members seems to settle on the unsure nature of the themes and the overall message of the piece. I can understand that perhaps, at times, the imagery contradicts the action and gets tied up in its own ambiguity. It is also possible to look at Garland’s work under a critical feminist microscope asking questions like: why is a straight white man making a movie about collective female trauma/violence against women/the collective female experience in regard to men? But then, (and this might be unforgivable idk) the ending hits and I’m sitting there thinking, hmmm, okay. Maybe Garland made this because he has been one of these men? Or maybe I just missed the point and its not as feminist as I want it to be. THAT’S the nature of this movie. I know what I think it’s about and the ending proved to be a moment of real AHA clarity for me. Who knows how it might register with you…?

I must devote a little paragraph to Rory Kinnear and his clammy jumble-toothed repertoire of grotesque male British stereotypes… We’ve got the farmer, the priest, the troubled teen, the lads, the clueless policeman and the (aforementioned) Green Man. They start off pretty harmless, making strange off-kilter comments and bothering Harper only due to their awkwardness and assumptions based on her surname and the tragic death of her husband. By the second act these “men” have become something entirely more sinister, one scene in particular is extremely uncomfortable to watch just because of the way Kinnear savours his dialogue. I could talk a lot about the ending, but I would rather not spoil it, just be prepared for some ridiculously fearsome body horror, subverting an experience that is supposed to be both beautiful and miraculous.

“What haunts you will find you” I see Rory in my dreams now… I look in the mirror and I have his face. Okay, I’m using hyperbole to get you to the cinema to see this divisive movie. It ABSOLUTELY has something to say and what that is, you decide. Just plz don’t mansplain or baby-faced Rory will find you too…

Have you had a chance to see Alex Garland’s Men (2022) yet? If so let us know what you think in the comments below!

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