Let’s think about the creatures that exist in the cinema with the purpose of causing us horror. Supernatural entities, vampires, the living dead… beings whose anatomies are usually extraordinary and terrifying, completely opposite to any form we know in real life, and therefore impact us, achieving their main goal. The idea of their presence is concrete: they come to scare you at any cost.
It is curious then that the London writer and director Alex Garland chooses for his third feature film a figure contrary to the common denominator of the genre, in order to evoke the same sensation. ‘Men’ is the story of Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley), a woman who has recently been widowed, and because of this, decides to spend a few days away from civilization. She thus arrives at Cotson, Hertfordshire, at a beautiful country house rented from her by the kind and quirky Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear). Installed in the tranquility of the distance, she will have to deal with the appearance of an individual without clothes, which will ultimately trigger even more disturbing and inexplicable events.
Although its premise sounds similar to other horror movies, ‘Men’ stands apart from them thanks not only to its plot, but also to its realization. Garland chooses to express much through the cinematography of Rob Hardy (who had collaborated on ‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Annihilation’), which in its sharp reds and greens emphasizes the importance of nature, while at the same time indicating the paths of danger and violence. This panorama fills the eye of the beholder while his ear enjoys the intense score created by Ben Sailsbury and Geoff Barrow, who are not afraid to make it choral and gloomy, setting the right mood to panic, in the tone that Harper finds himself.
Because in ‘Men’, one of the greatest joys is watching Jessie Buckley’s performance. In her character there is a colorful journey of emotions that she performs with impeccability, transmitting to the public high levels in each one. The crying, the bewilderment, the sorrow and the fear, everything is present in a vivid way, carrying in it the main load of the film. In his counterpart we discover an equally enjoyable Rory Kinnear, who develops gradually in each look, increasing the angst by invoking more and more unanswered questions.
And this feature is one of the maxims on the tape: Alex Garland is not willing, in the slightest, to solve the questions that arise in the audience. The film has the courage to introduce metaphors and particularities that evoke nature, the metaphysical, and even the dreamlike. The filmmaker constantly makes us doubt, and we don’t know if Harper is in a nightmare, if the situation is true, if it is Fregoli’s delusion or if there is an alternate reality. Garland allows us to be participants in the conclusions, which will come only through what ‘Men’ is making us feel, reflect on and reconsider.
Distributed by the famous A24, ‘Men’ prides itself not only on being complex, but also uncomfortable and frustrating, in the best sense of these words. Seen by a woman, it’s easy to understand the main character’s fears, even if they stem from subtle actions: even in the most relaxed setting, we’re used to being defensive and expecting the worst from the opposite sex.
The most valuable thing about the film is that it is just them, the men, who feel out of place. Let them experience disgust, worry, anger, all this with the exposure of misogyny that is shown to a greater and lesser degree during the film, which is also crowned with a body horror that is consistent with these attitudes. Thus, the meaning of Kinnear’s multiplicity becomes undeniable, which can be translated into a frequent and timeless phrase: All men are equal.