Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Conleth Hill, Travis Fimmel, Emmett J. Scanlan, Ralph Ineson, Susan Lynch and Lola Petticrew
Dublin teenagers Matthew, Rez and Kearney, leave school to a social vacuum of drinking and drugs, falling into shocking acts of transgression.
Aimless teenager Matthew and his disaffected friends leave school into a social vacuum of drink, drugs and thrill-seeking in one last Summer of adolescence. 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 is a film adaptation of Rob Doyle’s novel of the same name, adapted and directed by Eoin Macken. Set in Dublin in the summer of 2003, Matthew and his friends leave school and are set to enjoy a summer of madness before having to ‘grow up’, delving into a social vacuum of drink and drugs. Matthew romantically yearns after his free-spirited friend Jen and struggles to maintain his increasingly disturbing relationship with the magnetic and sadistic Kearney, whilst their precocious friend Rez has started to succumb to paranoia and depression. An event occurs that changes that changes their outlook on life, leading down the road of shocking acts that will change their lives.
The film opens up with Matthew attending a funeral. Whose, we’re not sure as the film then takes us back a few months as he and his friends eagerly awaiting the end of the school day, as what awaits is the final summer of freedom when you become a man. We know that the outcome of the film will end on a dark note, but I wasn’t really expecting was that the film explores toxic masculinity and the self-destructive nature of young men, be it due to their upbringing, or their general attitude of me against the world. We’ve been following these groups of friends before where you wonder how the hell are they friends; be it in Trainspotting to Very Bad Things. What the film slowly builds towards however is the downward trajectory of Matthew, who is seemingly the more morally straight one of the trio, yet he enables Kearney’s antics for so long you wonder when the penny is going to drop that his friend has now felt something dark within him after they witness a horrible accident, leading to actions that Matthew begins to question what Kearney is becoming and whether he is willing to continue enabling him or eventually severe ties. The film has a frantic energy to it, particularly in the party sequences and how Macken has those scenes shot, with blurry focus and fast-edits that are well structured by Colin Campbell. The films main strength comes from its well-rounded ensemble, and the performances of its young leads. Dean-Charles Chapman shines as Matthew Connolly, who knows when Kearney is going a step too far and eventually becomes torn with his loyalty to his best friend whilst also trying to maintain a relationship with Jen. Anya Taylor-Joy gives a really good performance (and a solid accent) as Jen, who is more headstrong than Matthew gives her credit for, and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo gives a more nuanced performance out of the main cast as Rez. However it’s Finn Cole that might get the plaudits for his performance as the unpredictable Kearney, who goes down a dark path that every smile and chuckle he shows/lets it has a menace to it. Once his stints on Animal Kingdom and Peaky Blinders come to and end, I can definitely see Finn Cole getting more film roles in the near future.
The film has a meanness to it that will be difficult for some people to endure, with the film showcasing a relentless amount of drug use as it appears to be the daily norm for Matthew, Kearney and Rez to take them, as well as tackle subjects like death, suicide and rape. While the film has some interesting scenes and compelling performances from its main cast, there is some elements of the film that didn’t work for me, with the main one being Big Show, featuring a television host that encourages the worst in men to embrace the ‘real’ definitions of what it takes ‘to be a man’, be dominant, take control, which Kearney is influenced by this, as well as the viewpoint of being able to do whatever you want, take whatever you want in America, and putting those words into actions, leading to his unpredictable and misogynistic behaviour. While it feels reminiscent of a sequence in Requiem for a Dream, here it feels like it’s an overused element to delve into the psyche of Kearney, even though it has a very-game performance from Travis Fimmel as the Big Show host. While I thought they both gave very good performances, I was surprised by the limited screen time Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Anya Taylor-Joy had in this film, with Walsh-Peelo being lost in the second half while Taylor-Joy is sparingly used throughout the film, as the primary focus is on the friendship between Matthew and Kearney.
While it felt uneven at times, it can’t be denied that Here Are The Young Men has a frantic energy to it during the moments that it is compelling, elevated by really good performances from its young cast. Interested to see how Eoin Macken follows this up.
SIGNATURE ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON THE 30TH APRIL.