Streaming Review

Here Are the Young Men review – intense unpicking of toxic masculinity

Eoin Macken’s adaptation of the acclaimed Rob Doyle novel is a bold examination of youth and masculinity, featuring Anya Taylor-Joy

The summer after high school marks the end of an era and the start of the rest of your life. For the three young Irish men in Eoin Macken's intense and dramatic coming-of-ager Here Are the Young Men, it’s this formative summer of soul-searching and self-discovery that will bring them face-to-face with the darkest of inner demons.

Spilling out of school and onto the streets of Dublin, the film follows a restless trio of friends as they embark on a booze-and-drug-filled bender. Just as another unmarked pill is popped, they watch in horror as a young girl is struck down by a car in front of them. Rupturing both the film’s direction and the character’s lives, it is a stark wake-up call that submerges these young men into a contemplation of their own mortality with varying but visceral results.

Lead protagonist Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman) is haunted by the image of the lifeless child, while Kearney (Finn Cole) is thrilled by the addictive, near-death adrenaline rush. The exposure to death is an alarming trigger for Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), whose growing distance from his friends is cause for concern. Though mischief was once the main goal of this troublesome crew, their reckless abandonment is now weighed against an existential pondering of purpose and identity.

Based on Rob Doyle’s declaratively philosophical 2014 novel of the same name, the film visualises late-night debauchery and the spiralling effects of raging testosterone with palpable tension. Tangible aggression rattles against the cage of masculinity in which it is encased and is brilliantly articulated in the physicality of Chapman and Cole’s refined performances, where built-up fury manifests as tensing fists, squaring shoulders, and rigid posture.

Here Are the Young Men takes a brutal stab at the coming-of-age genre with no romanticism in sight. As it unpicks Matthew’s loyalty to the “bro code” beyond simple transgression, Macken’s exploration of modern masculinity delivers insightful commentary around these young men and their interactions with women, consent, and living life in the fast lane.

The brilliant Anya Taylor-Joy makes a memorable appearance here as Jen, a diamond in the rough and Matthew’s on-off girlfriend, and whose soothing touches re-open Matthew’s wounds and expose what had always been glaringly obvious to her wide-eyed stare: that he's letting Kearney get away with murder.

Such earth-shifting realisations are injected with surrealism in this hyper-masculine drama with Kaufman-esque sequences that confuse reality and nightmare. Elsewhere, the jolting placement of James Mather’s salient visuals, warping perspective, and time-lapse camerawork embody the disruption these characters come to endure.

With the confrontation of personal accountability, Here Are the Young Men offers an exemplary look into the tethered relationships of young men, lad culture, and liability. Sharply observant and bolstered by stellar performances from its young male trio, the result is an intensely concentrated and appropriately in-your-face exploration of toxic masculinity.

Here Are the Young Men is available on digital platforms from 30 April.

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