Men’s Group

December 3rd, 2008 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Remember those news stories about men’s camps years ago when the whole ‘political correctness gone mad’ movement was at full steam — places guys could go and cry because their dads never said they loved them, they were circumcised at birth or any number of seemingly ‘ridiculous’ male problems?

It’s easy to make a joke about it, but as Perth-born director Michael Joy understands, a lot of men teeter on a precipice in an globalised and female-focused society that treats them as forgettable at best and dangerous at worst. Among a gender where talking about feelings is a lot like admitting you like to wear dresses, it’s twice as hard.

Which is why when seven men come together in a suburban house to talk about their problems in an organised weekly meeting, the atmosphere is thick enough to cut like a knife, all stilted blokey swagger, anger and machismo.

They’re all there for different reasons, and at first glance a small, quiet film about a group of characters would seem to have little to do with classic horror movies, but it’s all about who’s left standing, who comes through and who folds up. Just as each of these men have very different stories, each one has a different endpoint. Some find the peace they’ve come for, some simply get the weight they’ve been carrying around off their chests, some won’t get what they need and at least one won’t make it through.

Men’s Group is a lot like a play, the meetings in a single lounge room location, the few scenes in between that track each bloke’s progress through life like chapter breaks between the story of the group.

It’s an environment in which the script and actors have to perform with no artificial supports — every gesture, angry swear word or eyebrow flicker the movie in it’s entirety.

There’s a tense atmosphere almost throughout, even when the men start to open up to each other. The filmmakers have assembled a cross section of maledom who are as different from each other as they are from the women, children and workplaces giving them the stress in their lives, and while there are no car chases, explosions or robots, you’ll still be gripped.

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