Here Are the Young Men follows three friends right after they’ve graduated from high school. They’re excited to be rid of school, and Matthew, the sensitive and mostly reasonable lead of the film, is looking forward to his “final summer of freedom when you become a man”. The theme of how the three friends deal with their individual ideas of masculinity is hammered home right away, especially with Kearney, the leader of the group, who’s super-macho tendencies get the trio into some trouble.
The three friends, Kearney, Matthew, and Rez (the most quiet and withdrawn of the three) go about wreaking your usual teenage havoc. They do some drugs and break into their school to do some tagging and play some pranks. Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman) watches, horrified, and alpha-male Kearney (Finn Cole) takes their fun too far, destroying everything he can. Matthew ultimately decides to join in, an early glimpse at the internal conflict that he will be grappling with for the rest of the film.
The three boys witness a tragedy; while most coming-of-age films like this would center tragedies that directly center the main characters, what these boys witness actually doesn’t have much to do with them. Nonetheless, the event impacts the trio greatly. Kearney talks about how “intense and powerful” the experience was for him, and he shortly after decides to go to America, to live out his masculine fantasy. From here, each of the trio is left to deal with their own mortality, as well as their sense of right and wrong.
Here Are the Young Men shows us much of Kearney’s trip to America through a television show called “Big Show!”, hosted by Travis Fimmel (Raised by Wolves). “Big Show!” serves not only to show us Kearney’s gross American adventure, but also to portray some of the hallucinogenic visions the boys have when they’re using drugs. This gimmick is used a few too many times in the film; at times it works as a cheeky disruption, but it ends up taking us out of the main narrative a bit too often.
The only woman in the film who’s actually given much screen time or dialogue is Anya Taylor-Joy as Matthew’s girlfriend, Jen. While she serves as a voice of reason throughout the film, she’s also used as a plot device to further divide Matthew and Kearney and provide conflict between them. As expected, she gives a strong performance, but both she and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) truly are flat roles only meant to serve the film’s narrative; they’re not fully rounded out characters, and this is an unfortunate missed opportunity, because both Anya Taylor-Joy and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo are great actors.
While normally, using adults in the roles of teenagers is bothersome, it works in Here Are the Young Men, especially given some of the very adult subject matter of the film. Each of the leads delivers an emotional authenticity in their performances. Finn Cole and Dean-Charles Chapman are great as Kearney and Matthew; the two of them portray an intensity that’s very true-to-life of teenage friendships.
Here Are the Young Men takes away the melodrama that is frequently a part of teenage stories like this, and instead presents a feverish drama that authentically represents the intensity of growing up, and of teenage relationships. The authenticity of the film is disrupted by over-the-top high school parties and the television sequences, but despite how they take away from the main story-line, these scenes are fun to watch, and the “Big Show!” scenes do effectively show us the boy’s distorted sense of reality. Here Are the Young Men ends on a serious and unexpected note that will leave viewers reflecting on their own sense of right and wrong.
Here are the Young Men releases on digital April 27
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