Review by Sean Boelman
Eoin Macken’s Here Are the Young Men is a relatively standard British coming-of-age tale under the guise of something more artistic. And while strong performances keep this worth watching, it exists in the uncomfortable middle ground between edgy and familiar, causing it to be too weird for general audiences but too mainstream for the art house crowd.
Based on the novel by Rob Doyle, the film follows a trio of teenagers who go down a self-destructive path the summer after finishing school when they witness a tragic accident. For a movie about teenage debauchery, this has some lofty goals, as it is less about growing up and more about coping with trauma.
However, the film’s fundamental flaw is that it tries to compress a book of more than three-hundred pages into a ninety minute movie. There are at least four arcs going on, and while the main character is pretty well-developed, that leaves three more that aren’t as fully explored as they should be.
For the most part, Macken frames the story through the eyes of a single protagonist, but there are segments in the film which cut away to perspectives exclusively held by the character’s mates. These sidebars show the more ambitious aspirations that Macken had for the movie, but are relegated to little more than an afterthought.
Much of the film explores the spiral down which the characters fall due to their inability to process their emotions, and it’s a dark but stirring depiction. The movie does fumble some of the plot elements, like a scene in the final act involving the protagonist’s girlfriend and best friend, but for the most part, it’s a surprisingly subtle discussion of its themes.
The acting of the film is also a highlight. Dean-Charles Chapman starts out as charming as ever before peeling back layer after layer on his character over the course of the movie. By the time the credits roll, he does a good job of showing how his character has devolved into a shell of himself. In the supporting cast, Anya Taylor-Joy and Finn Cole are the standouts, although there is no real weak link.
Macken’s directorial style is much less consistent. On one hand, the party sequences are shot quite well in a way that emphasizes the disturbing nature of the situation rather than the fun that they should be, but then there are dream sequences that aren’t fully fleshed out. Stylistically, it feels like Macken threw a lot of ideas to the wall to see what sticks, and some of them didn‘t work.
Here Are the Young Men doesn’t fully live up to its potential, but the strong cast makes the most out of a script that feels somewhat underwritten. Ultimately, filmmaker Eoin Macken is trying to do too much in a short runtime, and as a result, it feels overly busy.
Here Are the Young Men hits VOD on April 27.