Here Are the Young Men from filmmaker Eoin Macken seemingly believes itself philosophically rich, though the sad truth is that it winds up feeling more emotionally bankrupt.

Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman of Game of Thrones), Kearney (Finn Cole) and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo of Sing Street) roam the streets of Dublin carousing and drinking, dabbling in hard drugs and having the type of tedious socratic gab sessions most youths have when they’re feigning worldliness. Amidst the booze and the waxing philosophical come debates about what it means to be truly free and, for them, freedom seems to be an existence beyond any and all authority—like an Ayn Rand novel on ecstasy informed by those too young to understand objectivism’s myriad inherent flaws.

Thus, when the trio witness a tragic accident during one of their binges, reactions vary from terror to pleasure, and young Kearney’s emerging psychopathy begins an irrevocable split just as the boys realize freedom is ultimately beyond their control. Macken’s setup is unquestionably intriguing, but those who came for a challenging look at disparate psyches should take note—much of the promise of Young Men is sacrificed early on to focus on murder, drugs, and drawn-out sequences of partying and drama involving “the girl;” Anna Taylor-Joy of The Queen’s Gambit, who gives a hell of an effort here despite being given too little. Gross.

Macken’s tale does strike impressive notes, particularly in how some performances come off so well with hardly any motivating factors scene by scene or line by line. The central theme of individualism runs amok, however, becoming a mere vehicle for getting to the flashy guts the director evidently finds appealing: hypnotic drug-fueled raves and meta-commentary on the American brand of capitalism told through an exposition-spouting TV show that exists solely within the boys’ minds.

A society built on individual rights as a screen for anarchy feels like a great thesis for a story to build upon, but when it’s clear the minds behind the film don’t believe in what they say and only want to dazzle with impressive camera tricks, you get 90-ish minutes of actors playing support pillars to a poorly constructed narrative that winds up straining beneath the weight of its considerable promise. If the only message is “things suck,” what’s the point in all the effort, anyway?

5

+ Performances; decent cinematography

- Fumbles its themes

Here Are the Young Men

Directed by Macken

With Chapman, Walsh-Peelo Taylor-Joy and Cole

VoD, NR, 96 min