Content Warning: This article contains a detailed account of the suicide of a man shown in the film “Men”.

Directed by Alex Garland new horror film A24 “Men” worth Harper (Jesse Buckley), a woman who is trying to relax in the countryside after her husband James (Paapa Esiedou) died by suicide. From the memories viewers learn that the couple quarreled in their apartment. Harper wanted a divorce, and James accused her of failing to fall in love with him through his struggle with mental health. He told her that if she divorced him, he would kill himself and it would be her fault. He also hit her and she forbade him to the apartment, locking him up. However, he forced his way into the apartment of their neighbors and tried to climb from the balcony to the house of him and Harper. But he slipped and fell, and now Harper is chasing the image of his face looking at her on the way down.

The shelter Harper chooses to escape to is anywhere but a safe place to land. The village is populated by many anxious men (all in the role of Rory Kinir) who make her feel like an unwanted stranger. Among them are a vicar who tells her it’s her fault that her husband died, an aggressive teenager who swears at her, and a naked man who wanders through the woods and chases her near the house where she stayed. Her only contact with the outside world is through FaceTime calls with her friend Riley (Gail Rankin) who is pregnant.

At the climax of the film, Harper decides whether to leave at last. Riley offers to meet her, but their relationship continues to break every time Harper says the address. She is then interrupted by a naked man who pursues her on the street. He bled and left. She barricaded the door in front of him, and he reached through the mail slot. She stabs him in the arm, but he horribly pulls his arm through the slit, cutting his arm and arm in two. It’s a horrible visual, but it’s also a clue as to where the film is going. When viewers remember how Harper found her husband after he fell from the balcony, his hand was shoved onto the fence, similarly splitting her.

The naked man turns into a teenage boy who terrorizes Harper, then a vicar who chases her to the bathroom. After both transformations his arm is still split, but it doesn’t seem to stop him. The vicar tells Harper that he is obsessed with her vulva and vagina. This connects the two mythical figures present throughout the film – the Green Man, whom the naked man either wants to be or literally is, and Shyla-Na-Gig.

The Green Man and Shyla Na Gig are legendary creatures, and their carvings are found in churches around the world. Many believe their origins are pagan, but that doesn’t explain how they found themselves in so many Christian places of worship. Earlier in the film, when Harper goes to church, she sees their carvings on either side of the source, and the film returns many times to their images. The Green Man, who is covered with leaves, embodies masculinity; so the naked man took refuge in the letter. Sheela-Na-Gig is a woman who uses her fingers to show her exaggerated vulva. In the film, The Green Man and Shyla-Na-Giga represent a duality, but the finale brings them closer, because it is men who end up giving birth, splitting their bodies.

Rory Kinnear in the movie

Eventually, Harper leaves the house and runs to his car. She finds the owner of Jeffrey’s house. At first she thinks he is an ally, but he also attacks her. He steals her car and drives her back to the house.

That’s where everything gets really awful. Jeffrey’s belly gets very big as if he is pregnant and a baby is growing very fast. And here’s what happens – his body splits, and he gives birth to another adult man, who discards his carcass and goes forward, because the same thing happens to him. The cycle of pregnancies and deaths is repeated several times, each man giving birth to a new one in graphic details. Nowadays, they don’t just have the same arm injury as Harper’s husband – they also have a broken leg as he does. The pastor’s words that they envied women for having vulva turn out to be insightful: these men may give birth now, but they must create ancestral pathways. It’s awful, scary and hard: life-giving and exhausting.

So it is not surprising if the latest version is James himself, who is reborn but still wounded by death. He stops trying to fight Harper and sits down next to her on the couch. He accuses her of resentment at his mental health and accuses her of trying to divorce him and his death. Harper, defeated, asks what he wants. He tells her he wants her to love him and she says she knows.

The title “Men” appears on the screen, and the song “Love Song” begins. Leslie Duncan’s original version of “Love Song” sounded early in the film. Here is a cover version of Elton John, which is a duet with Duncan. But the film is not over yet. The music moves on to the next day. Riley finally arrived to check on her friend. She notices blood on the doorstep and finds Harper sitting in the garden alone.

The lyrics of the song “Love Songs” can help us understand what message the film is trying to leave to the audience. The chorus reads: “Love is the door that opens / Love is what we came for / No one could offer you more / Do you understand what I mean? / Did your eyes really see?” In the last moments Harper still refuses to give James love, no matter how hard he and the other men try to convince her that it is her duty to betray her. Even the song “Love Song” during the film was captured by men, switching from Duncan to John. Now at the end of the film his lyrics are more like a threat than a promise. But Harper refuses to fasten. She will keep one thing – her love – for herself.

The film also mentions the Garden of Eden. In one of the first scenes, Harper takes an apple from a tree in the home garden and eats it, for which Jeffrey scolds her, only to claim he is joking. In the Bible, Eve, who eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge, forces God to drive Adam and Eve out of the garden, a decision that Eve – and thus all women – have rebuked throughout history. But at the end of the “Men” men are expelled, and only women remain in the garden.

If you or your loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is at risk, then National Rescue Line for Suicide Prevention has several resources and a round-the-clock rescue line at 1-800-273-8255.

Image source: A24

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