It isn’t easy to pinpoint standout sequences in Men, which is meticulously crafted. Harper’s early stroll through a damp forest is deeply vibrant, its transition from tranquility to terror carefully calibrated. Her discovery of the “echo tunnel” marks a masterful, spine-tingling blend of sound and visuals; cinema at its finest.
Jessie Buckley – one of our generation’s finest, most versatile young actors – delivers yet another mesmerizing performance, effortlessly conveying inconceivable grief, which then morphs into fear and finally explodes in vehement determination. Kinnear has an absolute blast convincingly inhabiting a dozen characters; there’s uncanny menace underneath his toothy smile and a glint of madness in his eyes.
“…its ambiguity is damn refreshing.”
Is the film an allegory, Garland’s phantasmagoric interpretation of grief? A study of rampant masculinity, seeping into every pore of society, as inescapable as nature, exemplified in the leaf-covered monster that stalks Harper? The title suggests that Kinnear’s characters represent all men, a giant sausage meatball of sniveling, drooling lookalikes. Is Men an indictment of religion, what with the stained-glass-filtered celestial light and all the Adam and Eve references? At the end, perhaps it’s best not to over-analyze it all and just go with the crazed yet minutely planned flow. Organized chaos? Most definitely. Like being comforted by a demon.
In fact, its ambiguity is damn refreshing. As opposed to trumpeting Relevant Themes and Messages, Garland allows his audiences to make up their own minds and discover the hidden meanings and thematic elements for themselves. He’s long since joined the rank of provocateurs like Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noé, Yorgos Lanthimos, David Cronenberg, and Ben Wheatley. With Men, Garland practically taunts/dares the viewer not to have a visceral reaction.
"…guaranteed to spawn endless debates."