REVIEW: ‘Here Are the Young Men’ (2021) Is A Vibrant Exploration of Youth Violence and Addiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Though Here Are the Young Men is definitely a joy to watch from start to finish, it does lack in certain areas.”

Graduating high school and finally entering the real world is a major turning point in teenagers’ lives. Most kids tend to focus on their college applications and future careers, but some fall prey to a social vacuum of drinking and drugs — along with other acts of violence. It is not something that can necessarily be stopped, because these kids are old enough to distinguish between right and wrong, but they are addicted to such a large extent that it’s hard to revert back to sobriety. Based on Rob Doyle’s novel of the same name, and directed by Eoin Macken, Here Are the Young Men depicts the downfall of three teenage boys who find themselves immersed in a world full of drugs and alcoholism. 

Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman) is a recent high school graduate who is now getting ready to enter the post-school world along with his friends Kearney (Finn Cole) and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). These boys, particularly Kearney and Rez,  have a reputation of being mischievous troublemakers. They spend their last day of high school destroying their teacher’s car as an act of revenge for all the punishments they received over the past few years. In the midst of celebrating, they are also readying themselves for a summer of hedonism and the impending uncertainty of their future. An unexpected tragic event soon underpins their vacation, leading to emotional fallouts and drastic consequences. 

Violence is a central theme of this film, which is made even more apparent due to the chaotic and unhinged nature of the characters’ actions. The world of these boys is far from glamorous, yet there’s a lively atmosphere to it. While they are often seeking out the thrill in their lives, at at other times they are busy doing casual, mundane things. For example, some days they attend parties and do drugs, while on other days they play video games in their small bedrooms. There is a hint of maturity and a brighter future seen through Matthew’s casual relationship with Jen (Anya Taylor- Joy), but the dominant relationship in this film is his friendship with the sadistically charged Kearney, whose actions have become increasingly hostile and dangerous following the accident they witnessed. However, Jen plays a major role in the story  because she acts as a sort of conscience, especially for Matthew. She appears to be much more responsible, self-aware and mature than the three boys, and encourages Matthew not to be ashamed of his sensitivity. Jen is the only person who keeps reminding him that he needs to be vigilant at all times, and focus on what he wants to do next. The film also shows how the incident affects all three boys. Rez’s self-destructive tendencies start to increase, while Kearney starts begins to indulge in vile and gruesome pastimes. Matthew grapples with both of these violent responses, resulting in his own world — and sense of self — eventually falling apart. 

Here Are the Young Men not only depicts how violence manifests, but also shows the consequences it brings. Along with the drinking and drug abuse, there is a heavy dose of melodrama. From the outside, it may seem like the film showcases a deeply thought-out portrayal of growing up, but it uses most of its screen time to demonstrate some of the worst atrocities that can happen to young teenagers today. The film is characterized by an engaging narrative pace, enhanced by a number of smooth editing choices, and supported by a powerful score. It stumbles between reality and subconscious imagination, as a resounding soundtrack plays in the background. Filmed in and around the outskirts of Dublin, its breathtaking visuals — such as the mesmerizing sea cliffs and coastal hills — create a dynamic atmosphere that is not only appealing to the eye, but refreshing for the mind. 

Though Here Are the Young Men is definitely a joy to watch from start to finish, it does lack in certain areas. The structure of the story feels disjointed due to the baffling pace during some scenes, and the third act wraps up a bit too swiftly, as it could have benefited from a more clear and concise closure. Still, audiences who enjoy psychological dramas revolving around young adult characters are going to get a big kick out of this. 

Signature Entertainment will release Here Are the Young Men on digital platforms 30th April and DVD 10th May. 

Dir: Eoin Macken

Prod: Hail Mary Pictures Glanzrock Productions Foton Pictures    Heart of Darkness Pictures

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo

Release Date: 30 April (digital), 10 May (physical)

Available on: various streaming platforms and DVD