Men portrays everyday life as a woman as a living horror movie. It’s a highly metaphorical and atmospheric movie, which will undoubtedly turn of many of its viewers, but it’s core story is about the danger, discomfort, and indignities that women endure on a near daily basis dealing with men.
Each of the men that Harper (Jessie Buckley) encounters represents a different facet of creep and manipulative behavior. The seemingly kindly priest, who places his hand on Harper’s thigh to “calm her,” also projects guilt and blame onto Harper for the actions of men. He views her femininity as a corrupting and tempting influence, very akin to Eve.
The little boy, who likes wearing creepy masks, is a brat who refuses to accept no for an answer and turns on a dime into verbal attacks, much like the men of the Internet ready to flip at a moment’s notice. The police officer is dismissive of Harper’s account of being harassed and threatened, representing a legal arm that often downplays and diminishes women as victims.
The only person in town that seems sympathetic to Harper is the one female police officer who takes her statement. Each man is played by Rory Kinnear.
Director Alex Garland is far from past genius displayed in Ex Machina Men. Here, Garland relies on his script’s allegorical nature and that is unlikely to connect with audience members. Its similarity to Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 film Mother will likely yield similar dismal box office numbers. Mother‘s none-too-subtle Biblical allegory at least had a cast of Hollywood heavy weights to draw in viewers.
Metaphor and allegory are best utilized in subtext, and Garland puts allegory ahead of character to poor results. When the film’s third act arrives, it releases any hold on reality as the horror imagery overpowers the senses.
Men is the kind of movie that wears out its welcome quickly, and will struggle to recoup its limited budget at the box office. Main stream audiences will not flock to this picture.
Letter Grade: D