Men Only is a two part TV drama that I originally watched because I like Martin Freeman who plays the character Jamie in it. At first it seems that the drama is about manliness (and men’s feelings) after or in times of the emancipation of women, but I think that it is more about… Well, I’ll tell you later, because I have to explain a few things before that.
The story is about five mates who play football once a week: Jason, Mac, Jamie, Des and Dwight. This one evening is just for them, but they often have to take a look at their mobile phones, sometimes full with messages of their girlfriends/wives. Every one of the men has his own problems, which I will describe in the character introduction.
The football mates notice that they’re getting older, since they lose a lot of matches lately. On one of these (depressing) evenings, they decide to go and party to let some steam off. For a few evenings, they want to party instead of playing football. Without their partners’ knowledge.
Very quickly, and unfortunately very easily, they descend into a rush of drugs, violence and sex. At first, they visit a strip club where they get into trouble which results in stealing a car and crashing into a store. Another time they go to a brothel. Their ‘partying’ ends with raping a nurse that works with Mac.
Jason (Stephen Moyer) is quite the narcissistic womanizer who loves to record his sexual endeavours on camera (one of these endeavours being Trina played by Amanda Abbington). He works as manager of a night club that he also uses for drug dealing, and at some point sleeps with his new boss. Most of the time, he’s a sexist (and homophobe) asshole. His love for home-made porn also leads to the recording of Alice’s rape.
But Jason also has another side: He actually has a teenage daughter who refuses to call him ‘dad’, something that he doesn’t like. He often gives money to Jamie who has financial problems, but mostly so that Jamie can have some fun. It seems that Jason’s arrogance is supposed to cover his loneliness, or that he is not able to maintain a relationship. Or maybe he’s gay? In one scene with Mac in the brothel, one could assume that Jason prefers men…
In the end, he’s the only one who calls their ‘partying’ with Alice what it is: rape.
Mac (Marc Warren) is an aspiring doctor at the ward for newborn babies of a hospital. He tries to start a family with his girlfriend Katie. Their relationship becomes problematic since Katie drives Mac crazy with her wish for a baby (which I totally understand). Sex between them turns into some kind of sport or competition for a baby, although Mac would just like to have sex for their relationship’S sake and without thinking of having a child. He’s not able to communicate this clearly to Katie and often becomes very aggressive about it.
A new nurse begins to work at Mac’s ward, Alice. Both are attracted to each other, and Mac resorts in having sex with Alice due to his difficulties with Katie. He steals ketamine from the hospital to have some fun with the other mates, and Alice comes with them to a night club. Not only does Mac rape Alice with Jason and Jamie, he also loses his job over stealing the drugs.
Mac manages to keep all of this a secret to Katie. But when they find out that his sperm is too slow, Katie sleeps with Jason – and becomes pregnant.
In general, Mac is a very confusing character: He loves his girlfriend, but he begins an affair with a nurse. It is not very clear, if he wants a child or not. While Katie tells him about Jason, the ending of the film suggests that she won’t find out about his affair, so that Mac can look down upon her. On the one hand, he regrets what he did – but on the other hand, he pretends to be something better than others.
Jamie (Martin Freeman) probably has a (not recognized) borderline personality disorder. When he’s with his girlfriend Louise, he’s usually depressed. Louise would like to have sex with him, but Jamie admits to Jason that she doesn’t turn him on anymore. When he’s with his mates, he’s usually overexcited. But he can get angry and aggressive very easily, too. He loses his job in a call centre over some private calls, which makes his situation worse. Mac lets him do some carpentering in the kitchen of his house.
Because Jamie feels that he’s losing his mates after what happened with the nurse, and how he’s losing control of his life after Lou leaves him, he starts blackmailing Jason and Mac with the video of the rape. He also tries to commit suicide.
Des (Daniel Ryan) works as a guard and is a loving and caring family father – and houseman. He finds out that his wife Lyn is having an affair with another man for more than a year. When he confronts Lyn with this, she tells him that she wants a self-confident man in her life, not the blob that Des turned into. She is also concerned about how he raises their son. Des starts fighting for himself.
He doesn’t take part in the raping of Alice, that happens in the bedroom of Jason’s place, but instead of that stays on the sofa in the living room with Dwight. That makes Jason believe that Des is gay.
Dwight (Razaaq Adoti) is looking after his elderly father. What his mates don’t know is that he’s seeing a psychotherapist. He has huge problems with his father who always makes him feel like he (Dwight) is a girl or a wuss.
He also doesn’t take part in the raping. Because Dwight is a handsome guy who often has girls around, but never really responds to them, Jason believes that he is also gay. He and Des meet once alone to talk about that Des isn’t fancying Dwight, which Dwight never believed. He also tells Des that he’s seeing a therapist and that this might help him, too.
Though Men Only can be very depressing and even shocking sometimes, I recommend it because that is also the reason why it is very good and one of the best films I’ve ever watched. The soundtrack makes the drama resembles a horror film, and in the end, it is quite a horror that is happening with the lives of these mates and with what they do with Alice and other women. Martin Freeman has a rather unusual part, I’ve hardly have seen him in a more challenging and/or controversial role.
It is very sad to see how these men – or some of them - are not really able to cope with their problems. Mac, Jamie and Jason resort to aggressiveness and sex to escape them. All their cheating, lying, not being able to name things in a proper and decent way is so heavy. Des and Dwight are at least able to face their problems, though in different ways: Dwight speaks with a therapist, while Des is finally talking to his wife and tries to work out things with her.
Despite the fact that this film is just fiction, I think it depicts quite clearly what problems men have after feminism, and how they’re (still? often? most of the time?) not able to talk clearly about their emotions and real problems, especially not among their peer groups (although the film is 15 years old, I’m sure you can apply it to nowadays). The main characters rather act tough to maintain their friendships and relationships instead of doing their own thing. Although I admit that, at least in Men Only, it can be difficult as a man in times of female emancipation to do so, not always knowing if what you’re doing is right in the eyes of women. Rape is obviously not the right thing.
So I also think that Men Only is about self-confidence and about knowing oneself (including one’s subconsciousness) as well as taking care of oneself in the 21st century. Jamie’s, Mac’s and Jason’s so-called self-confidence goes into the wrong, rather self-destructive direction, even if it might look all good and well superficially. Des and Dwight are at first somewhat insecure and have to live with some jokes about themselves, but they develop the right kind of self-confidence. Especially Des’ development is quite impressive, he manages to stand up for himself.