Eight years after their Oscar-winning collaboration on Ex Machina, director Alex Garland and A24 are teaming up once again for the cryptic new film Men. Other than the fact that it stars recent Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), not much is known about the forthcoming film, and the new teaser trailer does little to shine a light into its murky depths. Despite its ambiguity, its a trailer fraught with unease, and does more than pique my interest in the new project.
A series of disconnected shots with minimal dialogue, and underscored by a disembodied soundbite and an unnerving atmospheric drone, this teaser follows the same formula as many others produced by A24. It does, however, suggest a significant departure for Garland in what will be his third feature film.
After his 2014 directorial debut Ex Machina secured two Oscar nominations, including a win for visual effects, Garland went on to direct a kaleidoscopic adaptation of Annihilation in 2018. His most recent project from 2020 was a foray into television with the FX mini-series Devs, which traversed its intriguing premise with mixed success. While his three directorial projects have covered a variety of themes and subject matter, they share one major commonality: all three fall squarely in the realm of science fiction, which is where Men appears to diverge from Garland’s previous work.
While the teaser offers little in the way of substance, what we do see feels more adjacent to flat-out horror than sci-fi. Details about the film’s plot are sparse, save that it concerns a young woman (Buckley) vacationing alone following the death of her ex-husband, according to IMDb. In lieu of flashy high-tech bunkers or psychedelic extradimensional “zones,” it is set against the backdrop of the quaint English countryside. The church and graveyard, the apples falling abruptly from the tree, the subtle snakeskin background of the title card—these are images and motifs that feel more akin to the biblical rather than the scientific.
While there’s no doubt that elements of horror permeate both Ex Machina and Annihilation, it’s a direction I’m excited to see Garland embrace more firmly. As of now, Men is set to release on May 20th, though that is not confirmed in the trailer. Instead, it only leaves us with an ominous “Coming Soon,” and a pervasive sense of unease.