Men is a 2022 folk horror movie written and directed by Alex Garland. It stars Jessie Buckley as a widowed woman who travels to a village in the countryside on holiday but is disturbed and tormented by the strange men in the village, all of whom are portrayed by Rory Kinnear. The movie 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, although its narrative approach received some criticism.
There are quite a few moments in Garland’s work that are visually striking as well as powerful ideas, but the plot, execution, and purpose of the film in the last few minutes perhaps make for a divisive experience. Overall, ‘The Men’ deserves a watch, for its sheer visuals, performances, and inclusion in the plot.
Men: Movie Synopsis
Harper Marlowe decides to spend her vacation alone in the small village of Cotson after 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 suicide. After James punched her, Harper locked him out of the apartment before witnessing him fall from an upstairs balcony to his death when he was partially impaled on a fence.
Harper arrives at the spacious mansion she is renting and is greeted by its owner, Geoffrey. Later, she goes for a walk in the woods and comes across an old disused railway tunnel. A figure appears at the far end of the tunnel and starts walking towards it, but manages to avoid it. When she reaches an open field, she takes a picture of an abandoned building with her phone, inadvertently capturing a naked man standing nearby staring at her.
Later, during a video call with her friend Riley, Harper notices a man in her garden and calls the police; the man is arrested, with one of the arresting officers looking like Geoffrey. Afterward, Harper visits a church where the script has pictures of the Green Man and Sheela at the gig carved into it, and meets a young boy and a vicar who both have Geoffrey’s effigy. When she refuses his invitation to play hide and seek, the boy calls her a “slut”; and the vicar suggests that Harper might be partly to blame for James’ death because she didn’t let him apologize.
Distraught, she goes to the village pub on Geoffrey’s recommendation. There are few patrons in the pub and everyone, including the barman, wears Geoffrey’s look. Geoffrey is also there, his cop lookalike arrives shortly after. The police officer informs Harper that the naked man was released because there is no legal reason to have him detained, much to her disbelief and anger.
She contacts Riley about the day’s progress and Riley agrees to drive to the village in the morning so Harper can continue her vacation at the cabin. When Harper tries to text Riley the address, her cell phone service is repeatedly interrupted. She sees a policeman in her garden, but as the lights flash, he turns into one of the pub patrons and then chases her into the house.
Harper fights back with a knife before the kitchen window is broken. Geoffrey arrives and discovers that the window was broken by a crow, which he then kills by breaking its neck. When Geoffrey goes into the garden to check for intruders, he is replaced by a naked man who chases Harper again. When Harper tries to reach over the mailbox in the front door, he is stabbed in the arm.
He manages to pull his arm out, the stuck knife tearing his arm in two in an injury similar to the one James suffered in the fall. A boy and a priest appear in the house, each now similarly injured. The vicar tries to harass Harper, but she stabs him in the stomach and leaves the house.
While trying to drive away, Harper runs over Geoffrey. Enraged, he throws Harper out of the car and drives off, circling back and chasing Harper down before crashing the car into a stone wall in front of the house. The naked man, now in full green man form, approaches Harper, his ankle now badly broken, matching the other injury on James’ corpse.
A naked man violently gives birth to a young boy, who in turn gives birth to a vicar, then Geoffrey, and finally James, severely mutilating their bodies. Both James and Harper sit on the couch inside the house and he continues to blame her for his death. When Harper asks him what he wants from her, James replies that he wants her love. Shortly after, Riley arrives at the house and is revealed to be pregnant. Shocked by the trail of blood leading into the house, Riley finds Harper sitting in the garden, alive and smiling when she sees her.
Men Ending, Explained: What Happened At The End?
Harper runs back into the house and then watches in horror as the Green Man breaks his ankle and then appears to become pregnant, with a growing belly, eventually giving birth to a young teenage boy (in his exact form). The boy’s body crawls towards the woman, swells as if something is growing inside it, and then gives birth to a full-grown vicar. The same goes on until Geoffrey’s body is torn from the vicar and James speaks from Geoffrey’s mouth.
James, who is also completely naked and covered in blood like a newborn baby, sits down on the couch and Harper joins him there. He calls out to the woman and asks her to look at him to remember how he fell and died in another attempt to make her feel a false sense of responsibility and guilt.
Harper, now visibly tired and out of her severe mental and emotional torment, asks James what he wants from her, and he replies that all he wants is her love. Harper mocks him and rejects him once more, and the film chooses this exact moment to put its title on the screen for the first time in big orange letters on a black screen that says “Men.”
It seems absurdly unbelievable how James literally turns his wife’s life upside down, even after his death, blames her for everything bad and bad that happened to him, and then can say that he only wants her love. However, if we think about it outside of the context of the movie, such manipulative behavior between men, lacking any sense of responsibility, is not so unheard of. With an extended scene of bad men begetting bad men, the movie tries to portray the very nature in which patriarchy finds its way through the centuries, handed down from generation to generation.
The physical injuries sustained by the men attempting to attack Harper, a broken ankle, and a hand being cut in half, are both injuries sustained by James’ body after he plunged to his death. His body landed between the metal beams of the fence breaking his arm and the hard fall broke his ankle. It is undoubtedly the fear and false guilt of her marital relationship that comes back to haunt Harper on her vacation.
The next morning, Riley drives to the house and sees Harper’s car wrecked from Geoffrey’s crash the night before. Riley, who is pregnant, goes to the house and sees her best friend sitting alone looking at a small note. Riley notices blood marks by the house as well as an injury on Harper, who then looks up at her and smiles as the movie fades to black.
Harper definitely survives the night and there are also many visible signs that the attacks actually took place. So are we to consider that all supernatural elements actually occurred? Although this is one perspective, one can also imagine another, more symbolic one. Harper would definitely tell Riley about all the harrowing experiences, and Riley would definitely believe her because as a woman, she would be able to relate to the lust, aggression, and venom that malevolent men throw at them.
Undeniably, such a reading feels extremely gendered, but perhaps it brings us one step closer to what the movie wants to symbolize. Ultimately, “The Men” leaves viewers with plenty of thoughtful effects, regardless of which side of the debate they want to be on. Jessie Buckley’s subtle but smooth performance as Harper Marlowe is hugely valuable in giving the movie such an effect. Despite the unconvincing execution at the end, “Men” is a fun watch with plenty of food for thought.