'No Men Beyond This Point': TIFF Review
What happened when humanity evolved beyond needing males.
Festival bumpers at TIFF this year make a point of highlighting a yearning for more diverse filmmaking voices. If we come to fests to see black people telling their stories, lesbians telling theirs, and so on, mightn't we expect that a film envisioning a female-dominated world would be made by a woman? Mark Sawers offers less pointed satire than one might expect in No Men Beyond This Point, a mock-doc imagining that men started to go extinct in the 1950s. Funny on occasion and offering an imaginative detour or two, the Canadian production isn't provocative or amusing enough to have much import potential but is at least not another tiresome piece of "are men irrelevant?" trend journalism.
At 37, Andrew (Patrick Gilmore) is the youngest man alive. Birth rates for male babies had been dropping for decades before he was born, while at the same time women were becoming parthenogenetic, creating offspring without requiring sperm. Now the aging male population is mostly confined to nursing home-like reservations; the few remaining in the world of women are domestic helpers.
Andrew is one of these, caring for a married couple and their many daughters. He's fond and enthusiastic, portrayed by Gilmore as content with emasculation, but he's not exactly a eunuch: We sense the crush he has on one of the wives, Iris (Kristine Cofsky), and the unacknowledged feelings one of the older daughters has on him.
One of the unexpected facets of the distaff-dominated world as Sawers imagines it is that, rather than becoming a lesbian utopia, it is ruled by women fearful of all sexuality. "Don't touch it!" pleads an anti-masturbation scare film, and while women do pair up to raise families, they're expected to be chaste partners. This is a lot less believable than the taboo arising around romance with the few men who are left on Earth, an adaptive response that would head off conflict as the pool of men shrinks.
Among other TV work, Sawers directed several episodes of The Kids in the Hall, and many of the lessons in counterfactual history he offers here (coming from an Oxford "Men's History" scholar, from aged men, and so on) earn chuckles but feel only sturdy enough to sustain a comic sketch. Performances and production values are uneven, sometimes shooting for a campy faux-vintage clumsiness that doesn't quite connect. Curious, not always predictable, parallels arise between the plight of men in this fake history and various human rights campaigns of the actual past. But none play through in a way that shows our own world in a new light.
Production companies: Radius Squared Media Group/Mark Sawers Productions
Cast: Kristine Cofsky, Patrick Gilmore, Rekha Sharma, Tara Pratt, Cameron McDonald
Director-Screenwriter-Editor: Mark Sawers
Producers: Kaleena Kiff, Galen Fletcher
Directors of photography: Thomas Billingsley, Christopher Charles Kempinski
Production designer: Theresa Konrad
Costume designer: Megan Leson
Music: Don MacDonald
Casting director: Lynne Carrow
No rating, 79 minutes