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average rating is 3 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Aug 19, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
James Cunningham
Written by:
James Cunningham
Rashawn Glass, Robert Holt, Aygen James, Geoffrey Oliver, Jabriel Robinson, Ethan Vaughan

As a society we are in the midst of a crisis of masculinity. With long standing societal values changing seemingly everyday there is a dilemma over what masculinity, and what being a man truly means. On the one hand there is the traditional image of masculinity, the kind of man stereotypically presented in Hollywood and the media, of chiselled figures who are ultra confident in themselves and their ability, and who control those, normally women, that orbit their circle. This kind of masculinity breeds toxic masculinity, with figures such as Andrew Tate capitalising on the fear of losing such values, and misogyny, damaging both men and women alike. ‘Atlas’ recognises this, and aims to highlight what masculinity should be defined as in the modern world.


James Cunningham’s film is simple in both its message and display, though this is all the more effective in getting its point across. We simply see six men - Rashawn Glass, Robert Holt, Aygen James, Geoffrey Oliver, Jabriel Robinson, and Ethan Vaughan - each in their bathrooms, as they explain what masculinity means in the context of today. These men are all athletes, all in excellent shape, and reflect both the stereotypical ideal of masculinity and all its muscles, but also the vulnerability and openness that should today be associated with being a man. As each man undresses - baring it all to demonstrate truly how masculinity involves vulnerability - and showers they repeat the same message, that although they are in excellent shape, their masculinity is not defined by their body, but by the values that drove them to achieve such physicality, and the kindness and openness which they offer others in their everyday lives.


Though their message rings true, and is an extremely important one given the rise of misogynists and incels that has stemmed from a crisis of masculinity, and some people’s perception that masculinity is under threat from a changing society, it is nonetheless repetitive. Hearing the same words spoken five times over for thirty-six minutes is a draining, and sometimes dreary experience, especially when the lines are delivered so unevenly and at times monotonously. Furthermore, there is little of interest on screen itself, besides minor movements each man does in front of the mirror, with Cunningham’s directing restricted by the very nature of his script.


The title derives from the figure of ‘Atlas’ in Greek mythology, a titan god condemned to hold up the heavens and sky for eternity. Our traditional ideas of masculinity stem from Ancient Greece and Ancient Greek mythology - from heroes such as Hercules and Achilles, to Gods such as Poseidon and Zeus, all famed for their muscular physique, dominant attitudes and sexual promiscuity. The figure of ‘Atlas’ is an interesting figure to base such a film as this on, with the nature of him being forced to hold up the heavens and sky for eternity undoubtedly a reflection of the pressures men face to maintain their ultra-masculine, closed off, invulnerable demeanour despite facing worries within. The fact that the opening explanation of who Atlas was is followed by the defiant line ‘there are no gods’ reflects that it is impossible for a man to withstand all that pressure. Such symbolism is interesting and mirrors the strength of Cunningham’s script, which though in effect a long monologue, is effective in getting its potent message across.


‘Atlas’, though not the most interesting film, is nonetheless an important and necessary one, embracing and defining masculinity in the modern context.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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