24 July 2024

Sill images from the 2018 Movie Here Are The Young Men

Film Review – Here Are The Young Men (2020)

It’s clear right from the start that Eoin Macken’s Here Are The Young Men isn’t going to end well. Matthew’s (Dean-Charles Chapman) black tie, the out of focus large dark vehicle outside the church ….. the questions are how, who and, perhaps most importantly – and elusively – why.

Matthew is one of a trio of teenage friends, leaving their Dublin school and embarking on their last summer of freedom. After that, something closer to adulthood and responsibility will come beckoning and life will never be the same – or as hedonistic – again. Once they’ve left their mark on the school, it’s a summer of parties, drugs, drink and very little else. But just days after their last hurrah, they witness an incident which simply won’t leave their minds. Kearney (Finn Cole) decides to escape for a few weeks to America to hang out with his brother. The more introverted Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) finds the memory so haunting he tries a more extreme form of escape. Matthew is deeply upset and seeks solace with Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy), while trying to prepare for adult life by taking a menial job. But things inevitably spiral downwards into something much darker and sinister.

We’ve seen plenty of coming of age stories in recent years, some better than others, and Here Are The Young Men falls somewhere in the middle. While it sets itself up with an early shock, one that’s supposed to act as a catalyst for everything that follows, that moment soon fades from the memory and isn’t wholly the life-changer it was meant to be. Thereafter, what we have is the trio of young men all getting wasted, even if they have their own individual narratives. Matthew is the easiest to like, genuinely caring for Jen and trying to get his life on some sort of track, but even he gets sucked into the temptations of the party life. Kearney is the other side of the coin, living with an abusive father and with no feelings other than wanting to have a good time. Nobody else matters, despite what he may say to his friends. Rez finds it hard to come out of his shell, frequently retreating from a world he finds difficult to cope with.

What gives the film its drive and energy are the performances from the quartet of young actors. Chapman is miles away from his 1917 Tommy, while Cole makes your blood run cold as the sociopathic Kearney, especially in a scene that echoes Promising Young Woman and reflects a similarly degrading attitude towards women. Taylor-Joy, in a role that couldn’t be more different from Emma, gives Jen a spirit and intelligence which makes her mature beyond her years, especially compared to the boys. Sadly, Walsh-Peelo’s Rez is very much on one note, the sensitive goth who seems the most likely “who” in that opening scene, but that’s down to the writing placing more emphasis on his friends, Kearney especially.

It’s not the strongest of stories and there are times when Macken has Trainspotting in his sights. Boyle’s film is way ahead, both in terms of narrative and characters and the fact that the writer/director has a movie from 25 years ago as his touchstone reinforces that this is well trodden ground, with little left in the way of new perspectives. Attempts to introduce something more imaginative in the form of a malevolent fantasy game show feel uncomfortable to the point of awkward, so everything hinges on the main actors. That they deliver in the main is to their credit, but you can’t help thinking that they deserved even more for their efforts.


Drama | Cert: 15 | Digital | Signature Entertainment | 30 April 2021 | Dir. Eoin Macken | Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Anya Taylor-Joy.

Watch our interview with the film’s writer/director, Eoin Macken, here.

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