Men. Honestly, what are we like? Well, if Alex Garland’s new movie has the measure of us, it’s possible you’ll choose to not know. Garland’s astonishing first challenge since his 2020 miniseries Devs is a bloodcurdling modern-day folktale, by which male manipulation of ladies – belittling asides, emotional blackmail, disingenuous grasps for sufferer standing, and so forth – are painted not as discrete slights, however related gestures in an obscene, aeons-old ritual.
Its plot faucets into the parable of the Green Man, whose leafy countenance lurks within the stonework of church buildings all through Britain and Europe, and who Garland reimagines as a primal image of blokeish covetousness and malevolence: the everlasting perv within the bushes, torn between the wishes to pry and to pounce.
The movie’s curiosity in male entitlement additionally nods at Garland’s 2014 synthetic intelligence thriller Ex Machina, by which two self-absorbed tech varieties got here unstuck after failing to understand the lady they regard as principal damsel in their very own life tales can also be the protagonist of her personal. But Men is a looser, loopier, funnier, extra nihilistic work – starting as a well-recognized if polished rural stalk-’em-up, then shape-shifting right into a mad and cruel Rorschach blot of pure depravity and terror, or maybe a League of Gentlemen episode guest-directed by Lars von Trier. It’s the kind of movie that rattles you in 3 ways without delay: via the grim candour of its themes, the coolness precision of its craft, and the nightmarish throb of its photographs.
It begins with a younger girl referred to as Harper (Jessie Buckley) travelling to the countryside after dropping her husband (Paapa Essiedu), who has fallen to his demise in circumstances that originally show laborious to decode. A prologue exhibits him dropping previous the balcony of the couple’s London flat with a confused quite than terrified expression on his face, although his spouse’s is smeared right into a screaming Francis Bacon canvas by the rain-spattered glass.
To recuperate from this shock, Harper has booked a fortnight’s solo keep in a picturesque Gloucestershire farmhouse, which is owned by Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), a ruddy-cheeked mustard cords and Barbour jacket sort, who playfully chides her on arrival for consuming an apple from the tree within the backyard outdoors. (“Mustn’t do that. Forbidden fruit,” he chortles.) While exploring the native woodland, she discovers an deserted railway tunnel with uncommon echoing properties: a second of surreal magnificence that collapses into panic when a silhouette seems on the far finish of the passage and begins operating in the direction of her.