Based upon Rob Doyle’s novel of the same name, model turned actor and filmmaker Eoin Macken writes and directs coming-of-age drama Here Are the Young Men. Set during the Celtic Tiger period of Ireland’s economic boom, the story treads the well-worn territory of a group of teenage friends having their last hurrah summer before entering the real world. Matthew (Dean Charles-Chapman) is the naïve and impressionable protagonist, led astray by Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and Kearney (Finn Cole) who have an insatiable appetite for drug-fuelled rebellion. As his relationship with Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy) begins to blossom, Matthew is forced to reckon with his increasingly reckless behaviour.
In the cinematic timeline of youth in revolt, this falls somewhere in between the 90s verve of Trainspotting and Human Traffic but before the millennial frenzy of Skins. This hedonistic energy is captured in the production design and cinematography of Macken’s narrative, full of brightly coloured clobber and intoxicating sequences complimented by an enjoyable indie soundtrack. There’s a damning focus on the laddism subculture of this time as Matthew bends to the toxic peer pressure of his pals; the reckless trio confusing care-free liberation with transgressive libertinism. Whilst quite light on actual plot, the smartly written script is thematically heavy and thankfully isn’t as hazily nostalgic for this bygone era as we’re initially led to believe.
In the three years that have passed since this movie was shot, the reputations of the stars have gone from strength to strength, so the cast reads like a who’s who of rapidly rising talent. Dean Charles-Chapman holds his own brilliantly in the central role, but Taylor-Joy and Cole are really impressive in their wildly contrasting turns. Each representative of the opposing angel and devil on the shoulders of the conflicted anti-hero, their characters are used as vehicles towards very different paths. Despite his babyface, Cole is as vile as they come in his despicable portrayal of evil influence. Meanwhile, Taylor-Joy shows her class and presence in a quietly powerful performance as her character’s attitude and actions becomes crucial to the story. Further support in the excellent cast comes from familiar faces such as Ralph Ineson, Susan Lynch, and Conleth Hill.
Taking a refreshingly neoteric look at fluorescent adolescence, Eoin Macken’s Here Are the Young Men is a vibrant entry into the partyboy sub-genre and has just enough substance to back up its style.
Here Are The Young Men is released by Signature Entertainment on digital from 30th April 2020 and available on DVD from 10th May 2020