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New Release Review [Digital] - HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN

Here Are the Young Men review
A teen is torn between his sensible girlfriend and his sociopathic best friend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Eoin Macken

Starring: Dean Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Emmett J Scanlan, Travis Fimmel, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Conleth Hill

Here Are the Young Men poster

Set in 2003 Dublin but very much a throwback to British youth movies of the '90s, writer/director Eoin Macken's adaptation of Rob Doyle's novel Here Are the Young Men plays out over that most uncertain time in a young person's life – the summer immediately following graduation from school, when childhood must be left behind but adulthood seems something you're ill-prepared to face.

The two young men at the centre of Macken's film certainly aren't ready for adulthood. Kearney (Finn Cole) is a sociopath already kicked out of school for vandalism, while his best friend Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman) is a sensitive soul, though easily lead astray by Kearney.

Here Are the Young Men review

Released from school and fuelled by drugs supplied by their philosophising friend Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the boys break into their school and trash a classroom before destroying the car belonging to their principal (Ralph Ineson). Bizarrely, they face no consequences for such actions, despite being caught red-handed. Are we supposed to believe the principal simply shrugged them off with a "boys will be boys" tut tut? If so, it's the first of several tests of our ability to suspend disbelief.


On the way home from their vandalism the three boys witness a young girl killed when she runs into the path of an oncoming car. While Matthew and Rez are shaken up, Kearney experiences elation. He claims he's never felt more alive, and speaks in ambiguous terms about recreating the rush before leaving for America to hook up with his brother.

Here Are the Young Men review

Whether Kearney actually departs for America is somewhat confusing. He reappears soon after, though the movie never really communicates how much time is passing until late on when someone declares it's the last day of the summer. Maybe Kearney simply pretended to leave the country, though even back in 2003 mobile phones were so prevalent that it would have been hard to pull off such a ruse (I can't figure out why the movie isn't set in the late '90s when technology wasn't such a troublesome issue for storytellers). Anyway, among his boasts of banging American girls he claims to have killed a homeless man, a story he quickly retracts upon seeing Matthew's horrified reaction. But Kearney is determined to involve Matthew in his evil plans, targeting both a local homeless man and Matthew's girlfriend Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is out of his league by every metric.


Macken's filmmaking is restless, and his movie struts like a teenage boy who just popped his cherry. At times it's as over-bearing and obnoxious as its characters, especially in the bizarre fantasy sequences in which our young protagonists imagine themselves guests on an American talk show hosted by Travis Fimmel and featuring a cameo by Noomi Rapace. These sequences are employed as a cheap way for the film's characters to verbalise their feelings. In recent years, a new generation of Irish filmmakers have finally figured out the art of visual storytelling (Ireland might be a Catholic nation but it's long been decidedly Protestant in its reverence for words over images), but Here Are the Young Men feels like an unwelcome return to the bad old days of overly verbose Irish films that told rather than showed. Fittingly, it resembles exactly the sort of movies that were coming out of Ireland at the turn of the century. Buried in the exposition are a few insightful lines, such as when Kearney punches his father (Conleth Hill) and remarks how soft his face felt, a chillingly cold line that greatly exemplifies Kearney's Darwinian philosophy.

Here Are the Young Men review

While the young British actors are all excellent, they do struggle with inconsistent Dublin accents. Matthew and Kearney are portrayed as coming from working class homes yet they speak in distinctively middle class Dublin brogues. This adds extra confusion to an already disconcerting narrative. Had their home lives matched their well-to-do accents it might make sense for them to get away with trashing their school and their principal's car, and Matthew and Kearney might have been portrayed as Leopold and Loeb figures, young men who feel invincible due to their societal privilege. With the posh Jen being the only sensible and likeable figure in the movie, it does feel like the film is punching down when she delivers lectures to the working class Matthew.

There's an interesting movie somewhere in Here Are the Young Men, or maybe a better adaptation of Doyle's book. Ironically, it suffers from a filmmaker who seems intent on following the example of others rather than forging his own creative path. Just as Matthew is sucked in by the dangerous charisma of Kearney, Macken seems similarly enamoured by Danny Boyle. Even Boyle grew out of his yoof phase, and there's enough here to suggest that Macken might deliver more mature films now that he's gotten this out of his system.

Here Are the Young Men is on UK/ROI Digital now.



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