Here Are the Young Men – Film Review

Here Are the Young Men is an Irish coming of age drama exploring life choices made during the school summer holidays. Centred around the antics of three ‘young men’, a hedonistic summer quickly becomes quite sinister as the boys are made to question their own mortality and responsibilities following a tragedy. Veering between being a dramedy and a thriller, Here Are the Young Men is an unevenly paced journey which will not appeal to all. However, fans of Trainspotting, Schemers and the recent Irish film Pixie may enjoy its blend of dark humour, superficial exploration of the criminal underworld and platitudes about life choices and self-discovery.

Anya Taylor-Joy is the film’s selling point as Jen and yet, as a woman, she is excluded from the film’s title; admittedly, she could have benefited from more screen time as the disruptor within this ‘boys behaving badly’ caper. Here Are the Young Boys therefore follows the existing tropes within such genre but also conveys a darker, almost gothic ambience. One of the characters, Rez, whilst sitting in church half-asleep, wearing sunglasses, resembles a vampire from the film The Lost Boys seemingly hiding from the daylight and real life. The film plays with some of these horror elements in nightmarish, surreal scenes that are interwoven between the boys’ wild antics but are not always effective.

Dean Charles Chapman, Finn Cole and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in Here Are the Young Men
Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in Here Are the Young Men

Matthew played by Dean-Charles Chapman is the film’s protagonist and narrator guiding the audience through the summer’s events punctuated by red, monthly title cards, perhaps highlighting a degree of danger. Their friend Kearney, played by a magnetic Finn Cole, displays violent tendencies and harbours ambitions to join the army to allow his sadistic desires to manifest themselves fully. It is an intriguing concept but the film misses the opportunity to delve into this element completely. Here Are the Young Men seems unwilling, in part, to commit to exploring the darker recesses of the human condition by its misguided preferences to interweave comedic fantasy sequences into the narrative.

Matthew is a charming narrator with that beguiling blend of naivety and a penchant to pursue thrill-seeking adventure. His fascination with the seductive, exhilarating rebellious side that Kearney embodies is therefore easy to understand. Matthew is at that impressionable stage of life where it is easy to succumb to peer pressure to be perceived as edgy by engaging in semi-criminal activities. His character seems to be the balancing anchor within their small group of friends, however, as he falls in love with Jen, who is his saving grace, and resists oscillating between the extreme behaviours of depression and sadism displayed by his two friends.

Dean Charles Chapman as Matthew in Here Are the Young Men
Dean-Charles Chapman as Matthew in Here Are the Young Men

Here Are the Young Men provides a gritty perspective of a summer of unbridled freedom and whilst it touches upon issues of extreme cruelty, for the sake of immediate gratification, and disturbing sexual predatory behaviour, it shies away from a deeper examination of such topics. The film projects a good exercise in editing with its replication of the dis-orientation from drug abuse, which will similarly leave the viewer feeling discombobulated. However, as Here Are the Young Men does not offer anything new in that respect there is that sensation of déjà vu that quickly materialises.

Director Eoin Macken has impressively captured the spirit of those carefree moments of teenage life and the ensuing consequences. The all-star cast provide a degree of dynamism in their scenes together and whilst the film is engaging it is ultimately lacking. Based on the novel of the same title by Rob Doyle, the film may be suffering from the limitations of a transfer to the big screen but it will still provide sufficiently light entertainment, with a superb soundtrack, to satisfy most audiences.

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