Eoin Macken directs a young ensemble cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy, in Eoin Macken’s adaptation of Rob Doyle’s novel about post-high school malaise set in 2003 Dublin.
In Here Are the Young Men, an adaptation of Rob Doyle’s debut novel directed by model-turned-actor Eoin Macken, three young Dubliners find their post-graduation uncertainty exacerbated by a nearby tragedy. The film has enough polish to attract a small audience, thanks to a relatively high-profile cast (especially Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy, though she isn’t the focus here). Many audiences, though, will be reminded of other, more ambitious depictions of teenage disillusionment and risk-taking, the best of which can make characters’ epiphanies feel like they haven’t already been experienced by generations of post-adolescents.
Matthew is played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), who spends the majority of his time popping pills and downing pints with two slightly less well-adjusted pals: Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Sing Street, Vikings) seems to see drugs less as a recreational activity and more as a life strategy. Joseph (Finn Cole, Animal Kingdom) is fixated on the notion that moving to America will transform him into the alpha male he desires; Joseph (Finn Cole, Animal Kingdom) is fixated on the notion that moving to America will transform him into the alpha male he desires.
Jen, played by Taylor-Joy, stops by every now and then, ostensibly on her way to being Matthew’s girlfriend. Though her first line of dialogue suggests potential goals, the character’s primary purpose is to remind Matthew that his current stumbling puts him at risk of losing his sensitive-guy appeal. (However, Chapman’s portrayal of the boy, which portrays him as self-absorbed and sullen, lacks this appeal.)
That death scene features one of several stylistic tricks Macken employs here, few of them paying off. What’s up with the handful of near-subliminal flashes of a smiley face with x-ed out eyes? Why do extras in a fantasy sequence occasionally flicker into video artifacts? Why have Taylor-Joy croon Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control,” only to drain the song of its ominous power?
More substantive inventions often just bring to mind other films’ smarter handling of the same material, like the brief satire of advertising that recalls Fight Club‘s anti-consumerism. And the most sustained device, a recurring fantasy in which Joseph participates in a talk show built upon masculine power fantasies, grows muddled late in the film, when the vision somehow leapfrogs into Matthew’s own inner world.
Those talk-show fantasies do a lot of heavy lifting on the cheap, telling us most of what we need to know about a trip the film doesn’t show: Joseph leaves his friends behind and embraces darkness in the Land of the Free. He returns from the States hoping to share his new pleasures (abusing the homeless, for one) with the reluctant Matthew; he only succeeds in making his buddy more confused and irritable.
Throw in a failed suicide, concerned elders and a couple of attempted rapes, and you have a troubled-teens drama that should be much more involving than it is. Macken’s pace is sluggish even at a brief 96 minutes, and with the occasional exception of Cole, there’s nothing charismatic in the cast’s take on self-destructiveness. Given the working-class setting, nobody’s expecting the extremes of Robert Downey, Jr. in Less Than Zero. But with a stronger script and direction, Young Men could have been a similar big-screen showcase for its TV-famous leads.
Production company: Hail Mary Pictures
Distributor: Well Go Entertainment
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Travis Fimmel, Conleth Hill
Director-screenwriter: Eoin Macken
Producers: Richard Bolger, Noah C. Haeussner
Director of photography: James Mather
Production designer: Michael Moynihan
Costume designer: Aisling Wallace Byrne
Music: Ryan Potesta
Editor: Colin Campbell
Casting: Daniel Hubbard
Source: Hollywood Reporter