Filmmaker/novelist Alex Garland is fascinated with women, and much of his cinematic work explores the female psyche. His directorial debut, Ex Machina (2014), concerns a robot in the form of a woman, who is essentially incarcerated by her male inventor. Then, in his film Annihilation (2018), an expedition team made up of women travel into an environmental disaster zone. Now, Garland has written and directed Men, a mindf%#k of a movie about a young woman, Harper (an excellent Jessie Buckley), vacationing in the English countryside so she can come to terms with the tragic death of her ex-husband, James (Paapa Essiedu).
Her vacation, however, quickly turns into a harrowing nightmare, as every interaction she has with a male is creepy or downright bizarre. For starters, there is a naked man stalking her on the property that she has rented. Then, there is the local vicar, who, after putting his hand on Harper's knee, tells her that she is responsible for her ex-husband's death. Incidentally, all the men in the countryside village are played by actor Rory Kinnear, either through impressive make-up or digital effects. This adds more unease to a movie already soaking in a feeling of unease.
The big set piece that surely everyone will be talking about is the wild "birthing" scene late in the movie. It's a scene to behold, but I don't want to give too much away. Let's just say that it had me thinking of those Matryoshka dolls, or Russian nesting dolls...and that awful movie Xtro (1982).
The first half of Men plays like a woman-centered version of the unnerving Australian made Wake in Fright (1971), which is about a young schoolteacher finding himself stranded in a menacing town in the Australian outback. Sure, the early parts of Men play more like a conventional thriller, but a very effective one. The second half—which seems like a smash-up of David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and little bit of Lars von Trier thrown in for good measure—is more hallucinatory with startling and horrific images, and weird situations. Again, this portion of the movie is quite effective. The problem is that the two halves feel like two different movies.
Men is up for interpretation, especially the ending, but there is the definite statement of controlling, misogynistic men attempting to gaslight a woman.