Alex Garland Warns Men Is Not an Intellectual Film Like Ex Machina, More Aggressive

Boys will be boys and men will be “Men,” and according to writer-director Alex Garland, there’s no escaping that fact.

The upcoming A24 film and Garland’s third feature is “a horror movie about a sense of horror,” or, more simply, “a ghost story,” as the director described to Entertainment Weekly.

Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley stars as Harper, a young widow who has rented an isolated holiday home in the English countryside following the death of her husband (Paapa Essiedu). However, the innkeeper (Rory Kinnear) warns Harper against biting into the “forbidden fruit” on the property, and Harper can’t stop seeing his face in every resident in town. How many “Men” is too many?

With the haunting trailer evoking the (literal) suffocation of gender dynamics, the danger of a woman being watched by males with ill-intent, and the inherent paranoia that accompanies grief, “Men” has already made a splash ahead of its May 20 release. The mystery of the plot is intentional, according to Garland.

“A huge amount of it is about how the viewer responds to it,” he explained. “The film is about giving 50 percent of something, which could be touchstones, and the viewer is providing another 50 percent. If that is your response to it, I’m fascinated by that.”

Garland added, “People feel like, ‘Oh, I know what’s gonna happen now. But if you can just slightly mess with that, and keep them on their toes — that’s the plan, anyway.”

After making his directorial debut with 2014’s “Ex Machina,” Garland went on to helm 2018 sci-fi thriller “Annihilation” and FX miniseries “Devs.” So, where does “Men” fit in?

“In my mind, a film like ‘Men’ is connected to a film like ‘Annihilation,’” Garland said. “They’re very much about how you’re feeling about something. ‘Men’ is a gut-level film. I’m proud of ‘Ex Machina,’ I really love it, but it’s an intellectual film. ‘Men’ is not, I think.”

Garland continued, “When I say it’s a slightly aggressive film, that’s what I mean: It’s coming at the viewer. It’s a gentle movie sometimes, there’s lots of silly humor in there, but it’s also a bit delinquent.”

When asked by EW about his portrayals of toxic masculinity in his three feature films, Garland admitted that “Men” is overtly addressing gender.

“It comes up a lot, in different ways,” Garland said. “With ‘Men,’ I just sort of thought, ‘Screw it, I’m just gonna go straight into this.’ Maybe it’s just that with ‘Men,’ instead of running underneath, it sits there on the surface.”

He added of the independent film, “I’m in my early 50s and my main problem with film tends to be feeling bored. I sort of feel like I know where this is gonna go, I feel like I’ve seen this or that sequence of events play out an unbelievable number of times. I’m hoping to disrupt that a bit.”

“Men” will be released in theaters May 20.

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