‘Men’ is a Metaphor-Ridden Nightmare
A24’s latest is both far too real and way, way out in left field.
Usually, I walk out of my first-viewing of a movie with a distinct train of thought buzzing along with my sugar high: a solid handle on what it was trying to say vs. what it actually said, its context, its narrative… I rarely struggle at extracting those things, because most movies offer them up to viewers on purpose. They’re not built to be too challenging; after all, if you can’t understand them, how can you talk about them afterwards?
Men is a film I purposely tried to clear my head for going in, though try as I might, I still had my assumptions: I figured it would offer up some sort of artful/brutal commentary on gender and toxic masculinity and unbalanced societal constructs. All are topics about which I already have plenty to say, and I was curious as to how Men — a film specifically about women’s terror, directed by a man — would interpret that discourse.
My walk out of the theater didn’t beget any shiny thoughts or thematic insights. Instead, I hopped on the escalator with a loud fuzz in my head, clutching a Cherry Coke I barely touched during the movie, and speed-walked to my car. I couldn’t capture any thoughts, but I was feeling plenty.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Men, as an overall piece, is all over the place. It’s less of a cohesive tale than it is a slowly disintegrating patchwork of visual ideas. That isn’t the criticism it might sound like, considering this movie’s subject matter is anchored in a conversation so age-old and universal that it’s impossible to tackle it with any sense of completeness. Ever since this trailer dropped, I’ve been asking myself, “What does it mean that we’ve made a horror movie called Men?” There are so many factors to that answer, I’d need a 20-page essay to even begin…
The first half of the film is almost exactly what I expected. Harper (Jessie Buckley) has rented a countryside cottage for two weeks to take refuge and heal following the…