Alex Garland’s latest film Menmight be the filmmaker’s most polarizing film yet. His surrealist horror film fared poorly at the box office, dropping out of the U.S. top 10 in its third weekend, as audiences were overwhelmed by the film’s themes and body horror.
But it is hard to judge Garland’s films as good or bad based on the box office numbers. None of his films, including Ex Machina, performed well despite their critical acclaim, and this has taken a toll on the niche director.
In an interview with ScreenDaily, Garland mentioned that his next film Civil War “will definitely be [his] last film as a director for at least a while.”
Alex Garland BTS of 'Men'Credit: A24
Why he's considering retirement
His decision comes after some recent self-reflection. He said, “I’ve got a quite complicated but serious internal dialogue about what I’m going to do next… And I have been feeling quite strongly that I should stop directing films and I should write for other people with the intention of trying to execute the film they want to make, rather than trying to force through the film I want to make, which is what used to happen in the old days.”
The New York Times first hinted at Garland's retirement back in May. In the interview, Garland mentioned how he felt like a fraud and how that sinking feeling affected his work.
"... I don't particularly enjoy [directing]. It's something I have to force myself to do. It's incredibly sociable, because you are with a large group of people the whole time--and, in my case, having to do a lot of role play. At the end of the day, you feel a bit fraudulent and exhausted."
This decision is devastating news to Garland’s fans, but it doesn’t sound like his brilliance will be gone forever. Garland is a great screenwriter, and it sounds like he'd rather be behind the pen than the camera. Garland has some notable screenplays, including cult favorites Dredd, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later, scripts that showcase his unique voice in the realm of sci-fi.
Garland’s surreal sci-fi style has elevated the genre in many ways but fails to capture the attention of moviegoers for reasons unknown. Being burned out after starting principal photography for Civil War 48 hours after ending post-production on Men, Garland is desperate to relax and rest his creative mind.
Could Garland return to directing? Garland gives us a strong maybe, but that doesn’t mean he will stop writing and creating great and inspiring work.
While there is no doubt that Garland’s writing and direction have elevated the sci-fi genre, we want him to take a vacation to rejuvenate himself. If he does return to directing, we will be there, sitting in the theaters, watching his brilliance unfold on screen. If he does stay away from the director's chair, then that's okay, too. It's important to put yourself and your mental health first. Always do what you feel is the right thing.
Let us know your thoughts on Garland’s potential directorial retirement in the comments below!