Dublin 2003. Aimless teenager Matthew (Chapman) and his disaffected friends leave school into a social vacuum of drink, drugs and thrill-seeking in one last Summer of adolescence. Matthew romantically yearns after his free-spirited friend Jen (Taylor-Joy) and struggles to maintain his increasingly disturbing relationship with the magnetic but sadistic Kearney (Cole). Whilst their precocious friend Rez (Walsh Peelo) has started to succumb to paranoia and depression. Matthew and the group are soon led by the deranged Kearney into a world of nihilistic violence, falling into shocking acts of transgression that will irrevocably change their lives.
Here Are the Young Men centres on the three boys, Matthew (Chapman), Joseph (Cole) and Rez (Walsh-Peelo) as school finishes and they head into summer to become “men”, but all this changes when they witness something terrible. At its core, this film is a coming-of-age story for a generation who lack or choose the wrong role models. The inherent themes of choice and masculinity carry throughout the film but are sometimes lost in the meandering story. I took this as intentional – the story can sometimes feel lost and at the same time repetitive, which directly mirrors the lives these young men lead. It is eventually the choices that define them all, and they all make different ones with compelling results.
I mentioned before that the story sometimes loses itself in its repetitive nature – it is a series of drug fuelled parties with consequences spliced in between, but those come downs are essential in exploring the characters. There are surreal scenes and dreamlike sequences which interrupted the story, but which I understood as a reflection of drug abuse on young minds. The glaring question the film asks of its characters and viewers is “what does it take to be a man?” with each character choosing their own definition. Toxic masculinity, suicide, rape, and emotional expression are all explored explicitly which makes for uncomfortable but essential viewing for any young person. In the end it leaves it open for the audience to judge.
I will say this, the film is beautiful. The juxtaposition shots of a beach set beside a rundown housing block may feel forced but there is no denying how striking an image it is. The director takes the grim and places the beautiful in or next to it to create a feeling of disillusion and anxiety which mirrors that of the characters who are trying to discover where they fit in this world. The party scenes are authentic, and the acting is great, if at times exaggerated.
Where the film really succeeds is in its sound and lighting. The lighting and colour of each scene is beautiful, different, and deliberate. This combined with the music and sound editing made for one of the most climactic endings to a movie I have seen in years! I have never felt so anxious, my heart literally beating to the same beat as one of the characters, but I could not look away. The party scenes are dark but somehow bright, and the exteriors scenes are sunny yet gloomy. Again, it speaks to the director’s prowess for composing juxtapositions to convey character emotion.
This is a beautifully bleak film that has a lot to say on themes in the current zeitgeist. It sometimes gets lost in itself, but overall produces a satisfying conclusion. And again. It is BEAUTIFUL! “FOR THE BUZZ!”
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