The Humans (2021) – The Movie Reviews

The Humans is an American drama signed by Stephen Karam in his directorial debut, and the screenplay is based on his eponymous Broadway play from 2016, which was awarded by Tony. The film premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival, and distribution was taken over by A24. Like the theatrical play itself, this film is intended for admirers of existentialism and absurdism who are no strangers to slow arthouse works.

The plot of the film is set in a pre-war duplex in the center of Manhattan and follows the course of the evening in which three generations of the Blake family gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving. Dinner takes place in the new apartment of younger daughter Brigid and her boyfriend Richard, and guests are her parents Eric and Deirdre, sister Amy and grandmother Momo. As darkness slowly descends on the dilapidated building, mysterious things begin to happen that will add to the family tensions reaching a boiling point and the deepest fears of each of them coming to light.

Amy has health problems, she lost her girlfriend and will soon lose her job. Grandma is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, she speaks in riddles that have no answers and there are rare moments when she is still present. Brigid struggles to earn a living as a part-time composer, while Deirdi resents that her younger colleagues earn much more than her. Richard is a benefactor who tries to fix the gloom with a portable projector and a video of a crackling fireplace, he is always at his service and he tries to make everyone comfortable. As we learn about his past, there are many reasons why he could have been different from a good and optimistic guy.

Each of the family members in their own way influences this celebration to be miles away from a merry dinner – there are mutual condemnations that are covered with jokes or sarcasm, hidden resentment, some lies, some secrets, traumas and obvious or unspoken health problems. All of this is somewhat common for a good percentage of families, but in his film, Karam transforms our family drama into a tense horror show that is slowly evolving.

The scenario watches members of this dysfunctional family doing normal things, chatting, laughing, arguing, resenting each other, until they come to a crossroads that calls into question their further interpersonal relationships and the future of them all. Gathering is uncomfortable from the beginning because there are condemning views and comments about the apartment, parents feel a bit rejected and are disappointed that their children use therapists or a special diet to solve their psycho-health problems instead of devoting themselves to church.

The duplex itself looks like an embodiment of neglect, with various unusual designs, signs of rot, mold or dripping water. Everything leaves a feeling of gloom and claustrophobia. The apartment is located not far from the place of the September 11 attacks, which Eric directly witnessed, so he is always ready for the worst that can happen – he looks at metal pipes and power cables, imagining potential problems.

The quality of the script is reflected in the fact that the experiences of each of the well-developed characters from this night are put in a different context, that the characters quickly show what they are like, and that they successfully face problems that affect them and relationships with other family members. Conditionally speaking, these are ordinary, everyday things and that is exactly what creates discomfort while watching. Beneath personal and interpersonal dissatisfaction, we get moments that are more appropriate for a horror film, such as stories about spooky dreams or light bulbs that go out.

The film is deeply nuanced by the powerful directing characteristic of the cinema verite documentary style, which makes us unobtrusively attend scenes as if we were at the shooting location, but the film is intended for viewers of arthouse works for several reasons – after watching it leaves more questions than solid answers. vaguely rather than dark, the tempo is quite slow and a few times while watching you will probably ask yourself why I watch this at all.

The Humans is a layered and realistic family drama that combines imaginary nightmares and real traumas – an art film with a lot of ambiguity and alternative interpretations that will be endlessly boring if you are not a fan of arthouse works in the right mood.

my final grade: 6/10

Source: The Filmske Recenzije by

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