Men is a 2022 folk horror film written and directed by Alex Garland. It stars Jessie Buckley as a widowed woman who travels on holiday to a countryside village but becomes disturbed and tormented by the strange men in the village, all portrayed by Rory Kinnear. The film was released in the United States on 20 May 2022, by A24, and in the United Kingdom on 1 June 2022, by Entertainment Film Distributors. It received generally positive reviews for its performances, though its narrative approach received some criticism.
|Directed by||Alex Garland|
|Written by||Alex Garland|
|Edited by||Jake Roberts|
|Box office||$9.5 million|
Harper Marlowe, a widow, decides to spend a holiday alone in the small village of Cotson following the apparent suicide of her husband James. In flashbacks, it is revealed that Harper, fed up with James' emotional abuse and manipulation, intended to divorce him, leading James to threaten her with his suicide and eventually striking her when she continues to reject him. Harper locks James out of the flat before witnessing him fall from an upstairs balcony to his death, being partially impaled by a fence.
Sometime later, Harper arrives at the house that she is renting where she is met by its owner Geoffrey. Harper later goes for a walk in the woods and stumbles upon an old, unused railway tunnel. A mysterious figure appears at the end of the tunnel and begins chasing her, but she manages to evade it. Reaching an open field, Harper takes a picture with her phone, inadvertently capturing a naked man standing near an abandoned building. Later, as Harper is video chatting with her friend Riley, she observes the man in her garden, having followed her from the tunnel. Harper calls the police, one of whom looks like Geoffrey, and the man is arrested.
Afterwards, Harper visits a church where she meets a young boy and a vicar who both bear a likeness to Geoffrey. The boy calls her a bitch when she declines his invite to play hide and seek, and the vicar insinuates Harper is to blame for James' death, asking how she provoked him and if she let him apologise.
Harper goes to the town pub on Geoffrey's advice. The pub is sparsely populated, but all the customers, all of whom are men, bear Geoffrey's appearance. Geoffrey is also there, as is the policeman who arrested the naked intruder. The policeman informs Harper that the man was released as they had no legal ground to keep him detained, to Harper's incredulity.
Harper contacts Riley about the day's developments, and she agrees to come in the morning so Harper can continue her time away. As Harper attempts to send Riley the address, her service is repeatedly interrupted. She sees the policeman in her yard, but as the lights flicker, he changes into one of the pub patrons, who then chases her inside the house. Harper defends herself with a knife before a window breaks in the kitchen.
Geoffrey arrives and finds that the window breaking was due to a crow flying into it, which he then euthanizes by breaking its neck. As Geoffrey goes into the yard to scare away any would-be intruders, he is replaced with the naked man, who chases her again. When he tries to reach her through the mail slot, Harper stabs him through the arm. He manages to pull his arm free, the stuck knife ripping his arm in two in an injury resembling the one James received during his fall. Both the boy and the vicar appear in the house, each of them now similarly injured. The vicar attempts to rape Harper, but she stabs him in the stomach and leaves the house.
While attempting to drive away, Harper runs over Geoffrey. In a rage he throws Harper out of her car and drives away, circles back around, and chases Harper down before crashing the car into a stone wall in front of the house. The naked man, in full makeup as the Green Man, approaches Harper, his ankle now severely broken, matching another injury on James's corpse. The naked man gives birth to the young boy, who in turn gives birth to the vicar, then Geoffrey, and finally James.
Both James and Harper sit on a couch inside the house, with James continuing to blame Harper for his death, which she continues to reject. When Harper asks him what he wants from her, James responds that he "want[s] [her] love", which she appears to refuse.
A short while later, Riley, revealed to be pregnant, arrives at the house. Shocked at the blood trail leading into the house, she notices Harper alive in the yard, who smiles when she sees Riley.
- Jessie Buckley as Harper Marlowe, a woman who goes on holiday after a tragic incident.
- Rory Kinnear as Geoffrey, the owner of the holiday house Harper rents. Kinnear also portrays the numerous "men" in the village that Harper visits (such as the naked man, the vicar, the pub owner, the police officer, Samuel's face and the two pub patrons).
- Zak Rothera-Oxley as the body of Samuel, standing in for Rory Kinnear.
- Paapa Essiedu as James Marlowe, Harper's deceased husband.
- Gayle Rankin as Riley, Harper's friend who speaks to her primarily over the phone.
- Sarah Twomey as Frieda, a friendly Police Officer.
- Sonoya Mizuno as the voice of the Police Operator.
On 6 January 2021 it was announced that Alex Garland would write and direct a film for A24, with Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear in talks to star. Regarding additional casting, The Sunday Times reported Paapa Essiedu rehearsing with Buckley and Kinnear.
Principal photography began on 19 March 2021 and was expected to conclude on 19 May 2021, in the United Kingdom, specifically St Katherine's Docks, London, and parts of Gloucestershire, including Withington, standing in for Cotson; and a tunnel in The Forest of Dean. On 22 May 2021 cinematographer Rob Hardy said filming had wrapped.
Men was set to be released in the United States on 20 May 2022 by A24, and was released in the United Kingdom on 1 June by Entertainment Film Distributors. It screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors' Fortnight section in May 2022. It was also selected as opening film at 26th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival to be screened on 7 July 2022.
In the United States and Canada, Men was released alongside Downton Abbey: A New Era in 2,212 theaters. It made $3.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing fifth at the box office. It then earned $1.2 million in its second weekend, finishing ninth, before dropping out of the box office top ten in its third weekend.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of 224 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's consensus reads, "If its narrative and thematic reach sometimes exceeds its grasp, magnetic performances from a stellar cast help Men make the most of its horror provocations." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 65 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 52% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 30% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Mark Kermode of The Observer gave the film 3/5 stars, calling it "a playfully twisted affair – not quite as profound as it seems to think, perhaps, but boasting enough squishy metaphorical slime to ensure that its musings upon textbook male characteristics are rarely dull, and sometimes deliciously disgusting." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian also gave it 3/5 stars, calling it "an unsubtle and schematic but very well-acted Brit folk-horror pastiche". Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com gave it 3/4 stars, calling it "a visceral experience" and adding: "it reinforces Garland's singular prowess as a craftsman of indelible visuals and gripping mood." David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Riveting performances from Jessie Buckley and a truly chameleonic Rory Kinnear make this A24 conversation-starter an unconventional genre standout." Peter Travers of ABC News wrote: "With the male need to control women hitting a new flashpoint, Alex Garland’s urgent provocation stars the great Jessie Buckley as a widow threatened on all sides by toxic masculinity. Though Garland is stingy with answers, his implications are incendiary."
Kevin Maher of The Times gave it 2/5 stars, writing: "It culminates in a protracted, effects-filled birthing sequence that manages, after 90 minutes of man-hating, to be aggressively misogynistic." Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent also gave it 2/5 stars, writing: "It suggests that all a male filmmaker needs to do to earn his feminist credentials is to show us men doing bad things." K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone wrote: "Too much is spent reiterating certain gore-ish thrills and slick political points that really don’t benefit from the added scrutiny encouraged by repetition; even the grand, ecstatic, pathetic feat of the movie’s climax fizzles rather than simmers." Armond White of National Review wrote: "Despite its hallucinatory finale, Men is not really an examination of spousal guilt or women's fearful psychology... Plus, it's too absurd to substantiate the media's fascination with 'toxic masculinity.'"
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