Men Movie Plot Explained: The True Meaning of the Film

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Men Rory Kinnear

Men is a heavy, yet not subtle, film focusing on the horrors of the patriarchy in society—one that has plenty of meaning to make out of its open-ended plot.

The film, directed by Civil War Director Alex Garland, follows Jessie Buckley’s Harper Marlow, who is looking for a place to heal after some recent trauma. 

The house she chooses to rent looks like the perfect place—that is, until it, and the whole town, becomes subject to some seriously disturbing inhabitants.

The Trauma That Frames Men

Rory Kinnear in Men

The entire story revolves around Jessie Buckley’s Harper Marlow wanting to get away and heal following severely traumatic events.

Harper was in a year-long marriage with a man named James, whom she eventually wanted to divorce. James does not like this, and it becomes clear to audiences that he is an extremely emotionally manipulative person, someone who even goes as far as threatening suicide if his wife were actually to leave him.

This chain of events unfolds throughout the film in flashbacks, where things eventually escalate to James being physically abusive. After completely flipping out on him (rightfully so, of course), things somehow go from bad to worse.

The next time Harper sees her husband, they seemingly lock eyes through her window as he is falling from the floor above her apartment—brutally landing on the fence post and ground below, dying, and leaving viewers with a gruesome visual to remember.

What Happens in the End?

Jessie Buckley as Harper in Men

After getting to town, the rest of the film slowly explores Harper’s interactions with various locals, all men, who are all played by Rory Kinnear. 

Among the many types of people Kinnear plays are a leisurely rental owner, a crazy naked dude, a policeman, casual bargoers, a priest, and more.

All of these men illicit traits of toxic masculinity, with a heaping load of gaslighting to go with it all.

A child with Rory Kinnear’s face calls Harper a “bitch” for not playing with them, the vicar tries to pin James’ death on Harper, and the cop sees nothing wrong with releasing the briefly arrested naked crazy man from police custody despite the clear threat to Harper’s safety.

Things finally reach a breaking point when all of the men Harper had encountered throughout the film start attacking her at the house, including the previously well-mannered Geoggrey. 

It doesn’t take long for the whole situation to nosedive even further into an absolute nightmare.

It’s hard to describe in words what exactly happens, but, starting with the naked man, these men begin giving birth to other men—forming a birthing chain that cycles through all of the different personalities of Kinnear’s various personas throughout the piece. 

The body horror that ensues is intense, to say the least.

After all the birthing is said and done, audiences are left with a newly born James, who admits he just wants Harper’s love.

The final shot of the movie jumps ahead a few hours and sees Harper’s friend arriving at the leftover destruction at the house,

The Deeper Meaning of Men

Rory Kinnear in Men

Men is a difficult film to completely parse out and understand, and one could argue that this is detrimental to the movie’s quality. But the filmmakers are certainly trying to say something here.

One can't help but feel that the fact every guy Harper meets has the same face is indicative of something more profound.

Did director Alex Garland want to imply that these toxic traits and tendencies are inherently part of all men? 

More than likely, this is simply meant to be the viewpoint of Harper as a character given everything she has experienced, and not some overt message about an entire gender.

Or perhaps Garland just wanted to make it less personable to lean further into the wide-sweeping allegory the film portrays.

There aren't many certainties when it comes to the film’s meaning; it is just a lot of open-ended symbolism meant to be interpreted however audiences take it. One thing is for sure, though: don't look for a coherent or meaningful plot here.

That is to say, the film's events aren’t meant to be taken literally by audiences—this movie exists to explore allegories and not much more. 

Any and all detailed story or character exploration is overtaken by the rampant symbolism, for better or worse.

One such subject matter is how the movie has plenty to say about the patriarchy and the negative traits associated with those in it and their common toxic masculinity.

Another key idea is how, no matter the issue, it is always framed as a woman’s fault, no matter the circumstance—twisted in a way that takes the blame away from the man. This is most represented by all the gaslighting happening throughout and how each man frames any given scenario.

This goes along well with all the Adam-Eve imagery, starting with the opening scene of Harper eating an apple from the garden of her new rental home. Eve was the one who ate the apple and, therefore, carries the sins of all man, if that’s how one wants to read it.

The film also literally portrays the ugliness of the patriarchy and its foundational sexism. Each version of Kinnear’s character who is birthed becomes more and more pathetic and weak as it progresses—a metaphor for how 

Despite the horror of the situation on the outside, Harper finds herself getting less frightened as it unfolds—right up to when she calmly asks her newly birthed dead ex-husband what he wants. A question to which he provides a fittingly sad excuse: he just wants her love. 

While Men might not have anything definitive to say, there’s plenty to take away from its allegorical narrative.

Men is currently streaming on Max.

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- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.