A wickedly funny new mockumentary made by Mark Sawers (known for "The Kids in the Hall") is entitled: "No Men Beyond This Point." Just one look at the smart trailer lets you know this is a commentary on today's feminism--or rather, the "battle of the sexes." The set-up could have been a simplistic: "What if feminists really did take over the world?" but it's more sophisticated than that. Instead, it's an act of nature ("praise Nature") that's eliminating men.
Women are now "asexual" and are producing only female babies through parthenogenesis (reproduction without fertilization--something found in some insects and reptiles). Without the male contributing the Y chromosome, no males are conceived, and a race of "women only" is born. The youngest man on earth, Andrew Myers, is thirty-seven years old and works as a housekeeper. Women "pair off" in mostly non-sexual, non-romantic partnerships in order to raise their children together (all girls, of course).
The mockumentary maintains an incredibly even, deadpan tone. The main interviewees are Andrew and the couple he works for: Terra and Iris. Interspersed are other interview snippets, black and white re-enactments, real and fake historical footage. "Caught-in-the-act-please-turn-off-the-camera" moments drive the developing story forward. Iris has always taken men's "side" in her interviews. She doesn't dismiss them and feels sad that they are going extinct. Being an artist, she begins painting her one proximate masculine subject, Andrew, rather obsessively. Terra is not blind to Iris' sympathies, and the friction begins.
It must be noted that Andrew is one of very few younger men, and also one of the few men (with a worker's permit) who is not in, well, captivity. Yes. There is a "man sanctuary" that is basically a lodge with good food, medical care, a golf course and other guy amenities. The women may have lost their taste for men, but it's not reciprocal, so, once in a while, a man will make a break for it, hungering for female companionship. Running through the woods to female civilization, he will encounter signs "No Men Beyond This Point." Why are the men being kept apart? The governing council of women (there are no more wars or separate countries: women made the whole world one big, happy family) decided that it was best to hasten evolution and corral the stragglers. In fact, Andrew is lucky to still be out and about and must play his cards carefully.
Andrew and Iris fall in love, Terra confronts Iris who admits to the fact. The women's combined five or so daughters witness Andrew and Iris kissing furtively under a tree. ("Gross!") Punishment? Andrew is sent to the sanctuary. SPOILER ALERT! (Read on at your own peril.) But there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no river wide enough to keep Andrew and Iris apart. They go public with their plight (opposite sex marriage is illegal) and the female populace rises up in their favor with marches and slogans such as: "Celebrate Gender Diversity!" "End Manlessness!" "Make Opposite Sex Marriage Legal!" The end of the film sports a perfect twist that highlights our perennially imperfect world (I'm NOT giving away the twist).
What's on display here is foible-ridden human nature that we're all too familiar with. Some film reviewers questioned (very seriously) in a podcast whether the premise would have worked better in the dystopian sci-fi genre. Balderdash! It's hilarious. I will only mention two tee-hees here:
--One Australian "manosaurus" complains that the women have even taken their God away and replaced it with a "sheila," that is, Mother Nature ("praise Nature").
--The men in the sanctuary go on a hunger strike, but...they get hungry.
The film dwells at length (and then revisits again) Jesus' Virgin Birth, but there's really no correlation to God the Son becoming incarnate by the Holy Spirit and human parthenogenesis. I think the film was (respectfully) grappling for a punch line that wasn't there. "NMBTP" gets the Catholic stuff pretty correct. There's even an interview with an "Italian priest" who works for the "Congregation for the Causes of Saints" and had to investigate what seemed at first to be miracles--when the parthenogenesis began occurring. Even a nun in a remote part of northern Spain becomes pregnant (this really comes off as a silly "cheap shot" sequence in the film). And, of course the misogynistic, patriarchal Church suppresses all the evidence of the nun's pregnancy.
"NMBTP" is everything a meticulous mockumentary and comedy should be. The action is never flagging. It's clever but not cerebral. It won't go over your head, it will only make you feel smart as you get the jokes. Along with nailing the style of the contemporary documentary, there is no mean-spiritedness, it's not a "message film," and there's no "unrelatable" stretches of the imagination (except the human parthenogenesis). The actors are utterly believable. Much of what is said of/to/about women today is now said of men. The tables are turned--but not to an exact and too obvious degree.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SEXISM
Men's and women's idiosyncrasies are both poked equal fun at. There's a lot of food for thought here--enough that it would be good for a film discussion group. And even the most outlandish features of this "broad" new world aren't all that far-fetched, at least in the rhetoric of today. What's interesting about the women is that they are not "mannish," nor are they frou-frou. They're just capable, intelligent, albeit rather bland women who don't seem to need or miss the men. The indifference would be chilling--if it weren't a comedy. And of course, it's way funnier if you know Theology of the Body.
Available on iTunes Canada. Coming soon to USA.