Here Are the Young Men brings together a stellar cast jammed full of television mainstays already comfortable with fleshing out characters of their own. These include Animal Kingdom’s Finn Cole, Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman, The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy, and Viking’s Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Travis Fimmel. All deliver performances worthy of a bit more definition to the script. The story is exciting and interesting, but something extra is missing in execution. If I had to guess, I’d say that being based on a novel by Rob Doyle, the team likely had to cut several key sequences or explanations that could’ve fixed a few areas where the film falters. It’s very possible as well that the issues could fall to the original source material. No matter how you slice it, Here Are the Young Men is a good film, but I wanted a great one, particularly reliant on the strength of that cast alone.
In the aftermath of witnessing a young girl dying in the street, Kearney (Cole), Matthew (Chapman) and Rez (Walsh-Peelo) are profoundly affected in different ways. Matthew’s girlfriend, Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy), becomes ensnared in the crosshairs when the dangerous energy between Kearney and Matthew escalates. Set in 2003, we follow our four lead characters through a series of increasingly more disturbing acts of transgression. They spiral toward an uncertain future.
The characters are all flawed, but some have considerably more definition than others. Rez gets virtually nothing to do beyond being a suicidal drug addict and lashing out at others. His character was fascinating, so I was a little upset there wasn’t more to him. Jen gets a meatier role in the latter half of the movie, though I wasn’t fully sold on Anya Taylor-Joy’s chemistry with Dean-Charles Chapman. Matthew is essentially the lead character, with the most dialogue and biggest arc. Kearney is an awful person: he literally calls Rez “suicide watch” after a failed suicide attempt. Finn Cole plays this part like a proper calm and collected psychopath. He’s curious and happy when he sees the little girl hit by a car. Kearney’s relationship with his father is shaky at best, so he acts out and commits troublesome acts. It seems his biggest escape is through television.
Both Matthew and Kearney experience fantasy sequences where they participate in fictional talkshow, Big Show! Every time we get to one of these sequences, the energy becomes exciting, trippy and varied. It brought to mind the masterful talkshow moments in Requiem for a Dream. Travis Fimmel as a hilarious and obnoxious TV-show host gave me everything I never knew I needed. He embraces the role with glee, relishing every costume change and piece of outlandish dialogue. Top hats, corsets and guns—this character is my favorite in the movie, and he’s not even really a character. He’s a metaphor for dark desires, a commentary on the modern man and a flesh-and-blood embodiment of Kearney’s insanity.
Dealing with attempted rape, suicide, aggression and toxic masculinity, Here Are the Young Men isn’t exactly a light and breezy watch. It displays an erratic lifestyle of constant partying that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a coming-of-age film. My biggest takeaways were that Travis Fimmel would be a great horror villain, Anya Taylor-Joy has a shockingly good singing voice, Dean-Charles Chapman is a fantastic actor, and Finn Cole is devilishly good as the unhinged Kearney. While I definitely think the film’s structure and storytelling has some issues, I enjoyed my time in Dublin with these characters and the zany fantasy visuals.