Directed by Eoin Macken and boasting a stellar cast including Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen's Gambit) and Dean-Charles Chapman (1917), Here Are the Young Men tells the story of a group of teenagers coming of age in Dublin. Covering a range of tough topics from drug abuse to suicide, the movie doesn't hold back from giving us a chaotic yet realistic look at life as a teenager, with great performances yet unfortunately surface level discussions.
Written by Becca Johnson
The strongest element of this movie is without a doubt its performances. Anya Taylor-Joy impresses yet again with her depiction of Jen, a loveable teenage girl who struggles with her boyfriends drug addiction and his awful best friend Kearney. Finn Cole plays the extremely troubled and unlikeable Kearney very well, every violent and misogynistic act sending a shiver down the audience's spine. Dean-Charles Chapman easily steals the show as Matthew, a character who struggles with his addiction and emotions, torn between making his girlfriend happy and losing Kearney, no matter how awful his actions have become. The incredible performances, matched with interesting characters all going through very similar yet very different battles, made for an intriguing watch.
The movie deals with a lot of hard-hitting yet important themes, which becomes both a strength and a weakness. It does a fantastic job at portraying the idea of toxic masculinity, and how the media has a lot to answer for in terms of the way teenage boys are manipulated to act. It does so with both interactions and conversations between the characters, and surreal scenes involving a television show that is a figment of the lads' imaginations. It also gives the audience great discussions about how witnessing a terrible event can alter your thoughts, emotions and even actions, especially when we don't discuss it.
However, the movie attempts to tackle other subjects yet leaves it at the surface. Lead character Rez, played beautifully by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Sing Street), struggles with his mental health and things take a turn for the worst. Unfortunately, the script doesn't delve into this topic at all, a topic that should quite obviously be the focus of the movie. Rez has the most important story-line, yet gets regarded as the least important boy in the friendship group. Taylor-Joy's character Jen also has a sexual assault story-line, and though we get to see it take a toll on her boyfriend and the plot in general, the script struggles to show how it affects her as an individual. Jen is the character who experiences the traumatic event, so we should therefore experience the aftermath through her eyes a little.
All technical elements of Here Are the Young Men worked a treat. The cinematography was beautiful at all times, featuring some admirable use of colour and bright lighting. It really helped to capture the reminiscent side of teenage life, partying and chaos. The soundtrack also matched the tone of the movie and set the scene well, featuring some really cool rock tracks and a beautiful Joy Division rendition performed by Taylor-Joy herself. The script managed to be both relatable and unique at the same time, offering a movie that could be compared to the likes of Skins yet give us a fresh take.
Overall, Here Are the Young Men is a successful, important and unique coming-of-age story with relatable characters, a banging soundtrack, hard-hitting themes and a boat-load of talent. However, its surface level discussions about topics that should be the forefront of the movie are left behind, creating a piece of film that shows huge amounts of promise, yet a little to be desired.