Blu-ray Review: Here Are the Young Men

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Writer-director Eoin Macken delivers Here Are the Young Men, a thought-provoking drama about a trio of friends struggling with the transition between high school to adulthood. If that sounds vague, it should probably be stated right away that this isn't your ordinary coming of age story. Based on the novel of the same name by Rob Doyle (which I've not read and know nothing about), Macken's film is likely to garner superficial interest for the presence of Ana Taylor-Joy. Fresh off her widely heralded turn in Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, her role—however limited—is sure to garner some looky-loos who otherwise wouldn't have given this a second look.

Taylor-Joy's turn as the smart, confident Jen aside, the main characters are repellent. That's sure to turn off a lot of viewers. There's just no one here to root for. But if you're okay with watching some very morally compromised leads, Here Are the Young Men delivers an interesting (if someone disjointed) tale. The year is 2003. The place is Ireland. Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman), Joseph (Finn Cole), and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) are three friends with little in common. They've just graduated high school. While out getting high and generally looking for trouble, they witness the shocking death of a young girl. She's struck down by a speeding car while riding a scooter. No spoiler there, it's early in the story and provides the catalyst for the downward spiral each young man finds himself sinking into.

The "main" character, ostensibly, is Matthew. He's trying to turn a flirtatious friendship with Jen (Taylor-Joy) into something more. He has perhaps the most "normal" or typical reaction to having witnessed the girl's death. It depresses him to a point, makes him apparently more self-reflective, but doesn't appear to dominate his existence. For Rez, drug use plays a big role in his unravelling state of mind, leading to more consequential personal choices.

It's Joseph who commands the most attention. Finn Cole pulls off the impressive trick of layering Joseph with complexity. Many actors would've taken a more conventional route, playing Joseph as a straight-up "bad guy." Even if you don't "like" him, he's easily the most interesting. Right from the occurrence of the child's death, early in the film, Joseph reacts with something approaching exhilaration. As Joseph becomes more unstable, and maybe even homicidal, the push-and-pull between his and Matthew's tenuous friendship becomes a focal point.

Less successful is the running gag (of sorts) that finds both Joseph and Matthew hallucinating that they're guests on a popular TV talk show. It feels odd that they would be hallucinate/daydream about the exact same scenario. And without getting into spoilers, the film's conclusion is morally suspect to say the very least. But while Here Are the Young Men is difficult to "enjoy" in a conventional sense, it is at least stabbing at something relevant, vital, and thoughtful as it examines these disparate individuals and the ways in which they relate to each other. With a knockout performance by Finn Cole at its center, there's a powerful reason to recommend the film. And if you're into Anja Taylor-Joy, she's in it, too.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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