A mockumentary about a world where men no longer have a purpose is entertaining, even when it's uneven.
No Men Beyond This Point
What if men no longer served any purpose on Earth? That’s more or less the hook of the mockumentary No Men Beyond This Point, which presents an alternate universe where, in the 1950s, women suddenly gained the ability to reproduce asexually (it’s called parthenogenesis, as one of the talking heads explains). As the years went on, and the population of women kept increasing (since they’re reproducing asexually they only use the X chromosomes, meaning no more males being born), men eventually became of no use. No Men Beyond This Point starts in the present day, where the documentary crew follows 37-year-old Andrew Myers (Patrick Gilmore), now the youngest man in the world.
Writer/director/editor Mark Sawers uses a standard documentary approach to his absurd subject matter, employing talking head interviews, archival footage and black-and-white re-enactments, among plenty of other old tricks found in any average middlebrow doc made today. The familiar and banal approach works here because of its pairing with a fantasy/sci-fi concept, and the way Sawers focuses on some of the more nuanced changes that would come from the switch in dominant gender roles makes it easy to go along with his dystopian (or utopian, depending on how you look at it) vision.
Aside from playing out his big “What if?” scenario through social and political contexts, Sawers also focuses on Myers and his situation as the youngest man in the world. With the World Governing Council—a new body of government running the planet—sending men off to sanctuaries across the world to live out their remaining days, Myers manages to get a job as a servant for partners Terra (Tara Pratt) and Iris (Kristine Cofsky). Eventually, Andrew and Iris being showing an attraction for each other, and Sawers uses their flirtations to delve into the messier aspects of his universe.
It’s when No Men Beyond This Point starts exploring sex that the mockumentary begins to falter a bit. Especially giving a rather bland attempt at poking holes in the idea of how women would handle being in power. Earlier on, when Sawers highlights how the stubbornness of men in power ultimately led to their downfall, the idea works. But once women take charge and rule in a reactionary way towards men, essentially trying to speed up their extinction, Sawers portrays their rule as a conservative, sex-shaming authority, where women are not allowed to speak about their feelings of attraction whatsoever. It gives off an implication that women are inherently repressive when it comes to sexuality, a point that some people may take offense to. And with gender and sexuality turning into prominent issues recently, there’s something a little old hat about Sawers’ film operating within the same standards that are being constantly challenged today.
But still, anyone who tries to tackle gender is bound to get into a sticky situation of some sort, and for the most part No Men Beyond This Point is enjoyable despite its issues. It may be a little too deadpan for its own good, but even when the laughs aren’t there it’s fascinating to see just how much Sawers has thought out his idea of a world where women rule everything. I can’t say that No Men Beyond This Point lives up to the mockumentaries of the likes of Christopher Guest (and I’m sure some people will grow tired of Sawers’ premise pretty fast), but I can’t deny that I wasn’t entertained for the most part.
This review was originally published on September 14, 2015, as part of our coverage of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.