HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN Movie Poster | ©2021 Well Go USA Entertainment

HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN Movie Poster | ©2021 Well Go USA Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars:
Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Travis Fimmel, Conleth Hill, Susan Lynch, Emmett J. Scanlan
Writer: Eoin C. Macken, based on the novel by Rob Doyle
Director: Eoin C. Macken
Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment
Release Date: April 27, 2021

HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN is set in Dublin, Ireland, in the summer of 2003. Our narrator, Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman), is at a church for a funeral at the start. In voiceover, he talks about how people say the summer after school graduation (secondary school in Ireland, equivalent to high school in the U.S.) is perhaps the most important and free time in one’s life. He says he regrets some of the choices he’s made, but only some.

So we start off with the mystery of who has died, and how it happened. Two months earlier, Matthew is just graduating, not too impressed with the transition to adult life. The headmaster counsels him to be careful in his choices.

We’re three minutes into the movie, wondering what Matthew is going to choose that’s so monumental.

While the voiceover seems unnecessary, it helps for HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN to start us off with these questions. It assures us that the story has a destination.

At first, the film seems as though it may be as aimless as Matthew and his two best friends. Kearney (Finn Cole) is a budding sociopath who was expelled from school, while cool Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is suffering from existential angst.

The most well-adjusted person in their group is Matthew’s girlfriend Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy). Jen is the only one with a career plan, though she hasn’t decided yet if she’ll put it on hold to stick around with Matthew.

When the boys witness an accident (not their fault, they just happen to be there), it triggers something different in each of them.

Director/writer Eoin C. Macken, adapting Rob Doyle’s novel, uses surrealism to illustrate what’s going on in characters’ minds. A mean-spirited American game show (Travis Fimmell plays the bro-ish host) looms particularly large in Kearney’s imagination, explaining what’s driving him.

The heightened, hallucinatory style is used off and on throughout, even for scenes set in reality. Macken employs washes of bright color, tilted camera angles and changing focus to put us in the mindset of people who are often drunk and/or high. We’re sometimes with the characters in wondering whether certain moments are truly happening, or just flights of fancy.

Chapman does a strong job with Matthew, whose decent instincts must battle it out against boredom and loneliness. Cole is convincing as Kearney, fighting to live up to his own self-image. Walsh-Peelo toggles persuasively between being hip, numb and anguished. Jen has some didactic lines, but in Taylor-Joy’s capable hands, she comes off as someone sure of herself, not easily swayed by others.

It’s probably not possible to discuss how Matthew making choices plays out, but it seems like we’re being a bit shortchanged by not knowing more about exactly why he makes them. It also seems an odd decision to set HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN in 2003. Everyone is already using camcorders and computers; mobile phones wouldn’t change much, if anything.

Then again, HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN paints a plausible, troubling portrait of what can occur when adolescents are given no hope and no help, but instead to figure out everything on their own. Sadly, there’s nothing about this aspect of the film that feels dated.

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