Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Vikings), Anya Taylor-Joy and more star in the solid coming-of-age tale Here Are the Young Men.
Coming-of-age films tend to come in one of two varieties: light-hearted adventures like Dazed and Confused or darker, more melodramatic movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Lady Bird. Regardless of the tone, all of the films explore the choices that come with growing into adulthood, and Here Are the Young Men is no exception.
Here Are the Young Men brings together some of the United Kingdom’s best young talent, including Dean Charles-Chapman (Game of Thrones), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Vikings) Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit). Here Are the Young Men is one of those darker coming-of-age films. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by author Rob Doyle (who contributed to the screenplay), it begins at the funeral of an unknown party before flashing back to show us whose funeral we’re attending, and why it’s happening in the first place.
As King Tommen Baratheon on Game of Thrones, Charles-Chapman was noted for his too-sweet-for-Westeros demeanor, but his character Matthew is anything but an angel. While Tommen was trapped by powerful forces seeking to manipulate him, Matthew seems trapped by the freedom granted by his high school graduation. Not long after it happens, we see him trashing his school alongside his mates Rez (Walsh-Peelo) and Kearney (Cole). Rez is the thinker of the group, not unlike King Alfred the Great, who Walsh-Peelo played on Vikings.
Kearney is the most extreme member of the group, desperately trying to prove himself a man through a series of escalating pranks, all while dragging Rez and Matthew along for the ride. A key moment comes early in the film when a stranger suffers a tragedy right in front of the boys’ eyes. Kearney is excited, Rez drops into depression, and Matthew remains in the middle.
In addition to strong performances by the main trio, Here Are the Young Man features an extensive supporting cast, including more alum from both Game of Thrones and Vikings. Conleth Hill (Varys) has a few scenes as Kearney’s uncaring father, while Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok) is the larger-than-life host of a feverish game show used to hammer home the plot’s themes of masculinity, choice and fear.
The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Matthew’s girlfriend Jen, the movie’s voice of reason. As Kearney’s antics become increasingly deranged, Jen stands resolute, forcing Matthew to consider the feelings of other people affected by Kearney’s actions. And while Jen’s advice might ultimately be ignored, it’s a poignant reminder that our feelings, while seemingly justified to ourselves, can be selfish in the context of the bigger picture.
Although the film can at times feel slightly disjointed, director Eoin C. Macken keeps a tight focus on the themes. With a less talented cast, Here Are the Young Men could have spun out, but the actors keep it on track. Cole in particular is hypnotic as the lying Kearney, and Charles-Chapman’s Matthew is appropriately outraged in the face of Cole’s devastation.
Ultimately, while the film appears to nudge our characters towards growth, it’s unclear whether any of them learn anything by the film’s shocking conclusion. Here Are the Young Men is both entertaining and flawed, and worth a watch.