Just as the cliché warns not to judge a book by its cover, we shouldn’t judge a film by its title either. Here Are The Young Men, for instance, is named after the lyrics of ‘Decades’ by Joy Division. Yet director Eoin Macken’s fifth feature is mostly mischievous and celebratory, a far cry from the famously gloomy post-punks.
It’s June 2003 in Dublin when Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman, 1917) leaves school, looking forward to a summer of parties and drug-taking with pals Kearney and Rez (Peaky Blinders‘ Finn Cole and Sing Street‘s Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). The trio of tearaways drop pills in a church, break into a school and cover it in graffiti before smashing up Matthew’s teacher’s car to the sound of Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded’. To avoid reprisals, they hotfoot it to a rave. It’s a sizzling, high-energy opening sequence that evokes late-teen LOLs before bills, work and responsibilities come crashing in.
We’re soon introduced to uber-cool Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit), with whom Matthew is totally enamoured. The other boys mock him but the pair soon hook up and become a couple. Later, the three lads watch a young girl get run over and it begins to haunt them. The parties and drugs continue as Kearney heads off to America, Matthew starts having nightmarish dreams in which he is taunted on a game show and Rez attempts suicide.
Things predictably unravel as Matthew’s drug-derived jealousy and paranoia appear to scupper his relationship with Jen, while Kearney’s grotesque true nature is unveiled through a series of unsavoury revelations. There’s intense imagery from Macken, who co-wrote the script with the author of the source novel Rob Doyle, as the youngsters get increasingly out of control, while the soundtrack impresses with tracks like ‘Where Do I Begin?’ by The Chemical Brothers.
In the lead role is Chapman, solid as you but slightly less memorable than Cole. He does his best to make viewers’ skin crawl as the repulsive Kearney while Taylor-Joy puts in an impressive performance, proving yet again that she has charisma to burn. Unfortunately, the story, lively though it is, feels somewhat slight. The kids take drugs, get drunk, commit some heinous acts, which is momentarily engaging but hardly revolutionary. That aside, the gameshow dream sequences, while entertaining and suitably demented, jar with the rest of the film and don’t quite mesh in the way that, say, Trainspotting’s similar scenes do. All this means that Here Are The Young Men is worth a watch but should be approached with caution.
- Director: Eoin Macken
- Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Travis Fimmel, Dean-Charles Chapman
- Release date: TBC (reviewed at Raindance Film Festival)