When it comes to Alex Garland’s films, the director places them into two camps. There are his intellectual films aimed at the mind, like Ex Machina, and there are the ones that hit viewers at the “gut-level,” like Annihilation. For his new feature Men, Garland finds it akin to 2018's Annihilation in its more direct, feelings-based approach. Think of it like this: Men is from Mars and Ex-Machina is from Venus.
“In my mind, a film like Men is connected to a film like Annihilation,” Garland tells EW. “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.”
While films like his directorial debut deal more with existential themes that remain under the surface, Garland says Men is a bit more obvious in its approach in building a sense of horror and dissecting toxic masculinity.
“It’s like giving the viewer a nudge, somehow,” Garland says. “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.”
Jessie Buckley stars in Men as a woman named Harper, who takes a respite in the English countryside after the untimely death of her husband (played by I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu). However, a bunch of men who look like Rory Kinnear (because they are all played by Rory Kinnear) begin to antagonize and terrorize her throughout the small town. It’s another film where Garland attempts to navigate the dark side of masculinity, and he says this time he wanted to dive into the deep end of the subject.
“It comes up a lot, in different ways,” Garland admits. “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.”
A24's Men arrives in theaters on May 20, 2022.