ST. LOUIS — Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman), Kearney (Finn Cole), and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) have just gotten out of school in Dublin for the summer, and are bound for the real world. But first, they must engage in the "last fun summer of their lives," before entering into a predictable existential crisis. Predictability wouldn't have been a bad choice for this movie.
Eoin Macken's "Here Are the Young Men" wants to be that teenage rebellion, end-of-innocence, real times after Dublin High shocker-but it painfully misses the mark. "Here Are the Young Men" is the movie where two teens litter, abuse property, do immoral things, and the audience is supposed to sympathize with them due to the hard knocks of their personal lives. As our three lost souls dive down the depraved rabbit hole of bad intentions, they ask for our sympathy. At least Chapman's protagonist does.
A character that you literally want to reach into the screen and slap around a bit, Mathews makes more bad decisions here than bad decisions can properly express. We never get to know much about his family life, but one can assume it's not that great because he's sad literally 98% of the movie. Taken advantage of by the charismatic Kearney and leveled out by the nihilist Rez, Matthew drifts through the whole film on one long drug bender. Confronted with love and romance by Anya Taylor-Joy's Jen, a woman who knows too well what bad these boys are up to, Matthew finds new ways to mess things up.
The biggest problem is that neither guy is interesting enough or worth caring for. Cole has talent, but we never quite get what madness is coiling inside the womanizing Kearney's head. Chapman, who played one of the soldiers with the impossible mission in "1917," has zero charisma or energy in the lead role. It's as if the Tobey Maguire dopey face video was watched too many times. Walsh-Peelo has an early subplot, but then gets shoved to the side. There's very little character development.
All the while, Taylor-Joy acts circles around the boys. You would like to follow her home and get into some "Euphoria" spin-off, but she comes and goes far too quickly here. If there's an ounce of personality in the party, it's from this talented actress. She has eyes that would make the sharpest tool in the shed follow her mischief through the woods.
There's also a confusing reality play that takes place throughout the film, where the film goes from one place and group of characters to somewhere completely different, leaving the audience wondering what's going on. Kearney will be watching a television show with his dad, and then all of a sudden he's in the television show! Sometimes, just from time to time if Hollywood can, they should just stick to telling a good story and not try to go way outside of the box.
What Macken offers up instead is a distressed and terribly disjointed take on the horrors of drug abuse in a teenage wasteland where apparently there are no good parents left. Worst of all, I don't think this film knows what it wants to be, or has a real purpose. The editing is second rate, with the film crawling from one scene to the next. Instead of creating fresh ideas and ways of looking at things, It riffs on recycled goods from previous films without offering up a reason for its own existence.
We start and end in the same spot, but everything in between comes off as a remnants of a dream that is best forgotten. Based on a novel by Rob Doyle, which promises the audience early on that this all happened, the screenplay wanders aimlessly for 96 minutes-before abruptly ending with the most ridiculous character death in recent memory.
The film has some style and wishes to get at some big life conundrum, but the whole time I just wanted one of these fellas to get a job and stop whining about growing up.
The tag line for "Here Are the Young Men" informs us that the film shines a light on the struggles of coming of age, forming an identity, and defining masculinity in the face of trauma." If only Macken's film had an identity-or leaned on its much more interesting heroine.