Monday, December 5, 2016

Rise Of The Gynocracy: No Men Beyond This Point

The Good: Decent performances, Wonderful satire, Interesting characters, Wonderful message
The Bad: The format is a bit off-putting, Somewhat predictable, Moments of characterization of a gynocracy
The Basics: No Men Beyond This Point is a surprisingly strong faux-documentary that explores how modern history would have been shaped if women biologically and politically took over the world.

These days, when I watch a film at home, it takes a bit for me to stop and give the movie my full attention, as opposed to reviewing the film as I take it in. It is not ideal, but usually, I at least make notes during the movie and find myself thinking about how I would rate it, as opposed to being truly immersed in the work. Films that stand out for me are the ones that I cannot do that with, the ones that captivate me to the point where I stop taking notes and pay attention. No Men Beyond This Point was one such film.

No Men Beyond This Point is a faux-documentary that explores a science fiction concept - in this case, human parthenogenesis - in the format of a historical documentary. When I sat down to No Men Beyond This Point, I knew nothing about the film except the most basic premise of the film; it was about a world where men were virtually extinct. As a result, the documentary format, with hand-held camera work and abrupt zooms, was very off-putting. Even after the film was concluded, I felt the medium was somewhat less effective; No Men Beyond This Point explores the effects of a radical alteration to human evolution, much the way In Time (reviewed here!) did, but with less flair or punch.

Opening with Andrew Myers working in Terra Granger's garden, Terra and Iris disagree about the presence of a man in their home. Andrew is the youngest man on Earth and his birth came after virgin births became prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s. The story of Andrew Meyers and the Granger family is mixed with a history of human parthenogenesis as a worldwide phenomenon. Terra is more ambivalent to Andrew being in the home and she recognizes that her co-parent Iris seems interested in Andrew beyond his role as the caretaker for their six children.

Modern history in No Men Beyond This Point diverges in the 1950s. More and more virgin births (exclusively resulting in baby girls) occur around the world throughout the 1950s and 1960s. When Sister Isabella gets pregnant and is able to prove fairly definitively that she was never with a man, the nuns rally around her and the international acknowledgment of parthenogenesis begins. From that springs a movement that puts more and more women in power worldwide. In 1965, a woman is elected President Of The United States and shortly thereafter the world is unified under a single government as sexual reproduction becomes impossible for humans. Men are put in sanctuaries where their needs are provided for and they are marginalized as women wait for them to become extinct. And, on the homefront, Andrew and Iris begin to develop a romantic relationship which threatens both the family and the worldview of men in the new gynocracy.

No Men Beyond This Point is hampered by a script that does an incredible job of painting satire throughout the film, but when characterizing what the world would look like under a female-dominated society, they miss some important marks. The world under women in No Men Beyond This Point has eradicated disease and has an international menses holiday each month, which is great. But humanity never went to the moon or developed video games or the internet. The big issue for me was that in Mark Sawers's alternate past and present, the government is as corrupt as it is under men (women are, in fact, lacing the men's food supply with hormones!) and women quickly create a worldwide religion and mindlessly chant the "praise nature" mantra whenever they reference nature. And the gynocracy quickly starts to repress sexuality in all forms, which is a pathetically Victorian notion.

But No Men Beyond This Point does far more right than it does wrong. As women come to power, the family units become stronger, social programs are prioritized, and the military is disbanded in order to fund more useful programs. The women who are interviewed for the documentary are articulate, utilize coherent scientific methodology and are generally honest.

The performances in No Men Beyond This Point are impressive as well. One of the most impressive bits of acting comes from Morgan Taylor Campbell, a young actress who plays the teenage daughter of Terra. Dahlia clearly has some subtle stirrings for Andrew and Campbell plays the attraction with minimalism that never makes the attraction explicit or incredibly overt. Campbell plays the role of a young woman with natural teenage affections and interests incredibly well without ever stealing the scenes.

Terra Granger is a tough character to evaluate because she seems very much to be a woman who is a product of the world she is in. Granger is repressed and conflicted about having a man in the house (she uses Andrew as a cost-saving measure), but she is not honest with Iris about what she truly wants out of the relationship she has with Iris. Tara Pratt portrays Terra wonderfully for her various facets, even if those facets are somewhat contradictory. Pratt is good with the stiff body language needed to portray Granger as uncomfortable in the interview scenes.

Iris and Andrew are not given enough time and space to truly develop their romantic relationship. Only in the last ten minutes does their relationship become explicit and change the direction of the documentary.

No Men Beyond This Point makes some brilliant points well, especially about the arbitrary nature of power and control. The satire is cleverly delivered - there are only one or two overt jokes - and the social commentary is generally smart. No Men Beyond This Point is an independent film that deserves to be watched as it is different from any other film I've seen of late and it pleasantly captivates the audience.

For other faux-documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
Donald Trump's The Art Of The Deal: The Movie


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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