Dublin teenagers on the verge of adulthood have their lives thrown into turmoil after witnessing an accident in the 2003-set Here Are The Young Men starring Dean-Charles Chapman, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Finn Cole and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Based on the acclaimed Irish novel by Rob Doyle, the charming Matthew (played by 1917 solider on the run, Chapman), sociopathic-leaning Kearney (Cole) and moody Rez (the excellent Sing Street’s Walsh-Peelo) are recent high school graduates without a plan for their future, unlike their brilliant classmate Jen (Taylor-Joy) whose post-schooling ambitions seem well thought out. Their only plan is to partake in a celebratory, debaucherous bender in the most “boys will be boys” way possible—by trashing the headmaster’s car and smashing up a classroom, all seemingly without consequence. But their freewheeling time is cut short after an accident forces them to confront their own demons around death, drugs, and violence.
Much like its source material, the talent present in director and screenwriter Eoin Macken’s drama is impressive but it fails to become anything substantial on the screen. Derivative and forced, Here Are The Young Men tries to cram far too many layers into its muddled coming-of-age story and the result is a tale that, at times, is repellant in its toxic masculinity and at others, dry and boring. Just like the characters in it, the film lacks any sort of drive or focus.
The young male cast are fine thespians in their own right, but Anya Taylor-Joy acts circles around them and she becomes the true highlight of the movie. It’s too bad then she’s given so little to do and too little screen time. What time she does have is shared with Chapman’s Matthew as their characters attempt to bridge the gap between friendship and a meaningful relationship. But that intriguing subplot takes a back seat to the rest of the noise Macken is throwing at the screen.
The director presents a variety of themes that touch on toxic masculinity, especially misogyny as projected by an exaggerated talk show called Big Show headed by Vikings star Travis Fimmel. Cutting these over-the-top Big Show segments into the film not only disrupts what little narrative flow the movie had going for it, but they lack any subtlety that might otherwise help to drill the movie’s muddled message home.
And what is the film’s message? Adults are neglectful assholes? Internet porn and video games are corrupting young men? Just say no to drugs? Even Macken seems unsure. Here Are The Young Men doesn’t seem to make a statement, settling instead for an unpleasant been-there-done-that morality play.
Here Are The Young Men is available on digital now with physical release coming June 29.