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Zak Rothera-Oxley as Samuel and Jessie Buckley as Harper in "Men" (2022). Image courtesy of IMDB.

REVIEW: “Men” is a surreal, bizarre deep dive into trauma

From the first minutes of “Men,” the atmosphere is deeply unsettling despite the audience not knowing exactly what is wrong – putting the viewer in the shoes of the recently widowed Harper (Jessie Buckley).

In “Men” (2022), directed by Alex Garland, Harper visits an isolated village to spend some time alone healing after the death of her husband. Through a series of flashbacks to the night he died, the audience discovers that he became increasingly abusive which culminated in his own accidental death.

As Harper copes with surviving domestic violence and witnessing the death of her husband, she meets a series of uncannily similar men, all played by Rory Kinnear.

Even the least outwardly vindictive of Kinnear’s characters are instantly off-putting and cause a visceral sense of discomfort. Despite the slow build-up to the climax of the movie, Buckley and Kinnear’s incredible acting performances create an unbelievably real tension.

Each of the men being played by the same actor is representative of Harper’s lack of trust and her vulnerability. The final, incredibly bizarre sequence of the film is a highly grotesque visual metaphor, functioning as a physical manifestation of Harper’s trauma following her everywhere she goes.

Even with how meaningful the story is, “Men” still has its flaws. The themes are a little too on the nose, and though I appreciate the straightforwardness, others may find it preachy.

“Men’s” greatest fault is the casting of Harper’s ex-husband. James (Paapa Essiedu) is the only person of color throughout the entire cast, and while he delivers a stunningly malicious performance, his portrayal as an abuser when the rest of the characters are white is difficult to stomach.

“Men” is absurd and strangely beautiful, as well as an experience that survivors of intimate partner abuse can relate to.

 It mirrors the experiences of survivors: being pushed to the side, ignored and even blamed for the abuse they suffered. It represents the experience of utter loneliness and self-dependence – a situation many survivors find familiar.

‘‘‘Men’’ is a movie worth a critical watch. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting is incredibly believable and fitting of the tone. Kinnear provides a bizarre character foil to Harper’s independence and her vulnerability masked by fiery strength.

Detroit Kallunki is a senior reporter with the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo

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Detroit Kallunki

 Detroit Kallunki is a senior reporter with the Daily Lobo. 

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