Monday, November 29, 2021

The Humans Review: An All Star Cast In A Slow Burn Play

Release date: November 24, 2021
Running time: 106 minutes
Written and Directed By: Stephen Karam
Starring: Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun and June Squibb

Erik Blake has gathered three generations of his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the group’s deepest fears are laid bare. The piercingly funny and haunting debut film from writer-director Stephen Karam, adapted from his Tony Award-winning play, The Humans explores the hidden dread of a family and the love that binds them together.

The Humans feels very much like a play, and for good reason.  The film is an adaptation of a play and you can feel those roots throughout this movie.  It has a small, but phenomenal cast. It takes place almost entirely within a single apartment.  And it has a voyeuristic camera style that makes it seem like you are watching this family from another room.  Of those points, the cinematography was the standout for me.  I loved seeing these interesting, unconventional shots; you had a lot of instances of shots that were through doorways or in another room looking into the family.  It had a voyeuristic quality that made it feel like you were observing this family and their interactions.  There were some shots from lower angles and other shots that had a blurred perspective.  Overall it was a very interesting experience.  And on top of the cinematography, the writing was also an enjoyable aspect.  It definitely felt like a film that was converted from a play, with some funny statements, plenty of heartwarming family scenes, and lots of drama.  And it's strange to say this, but the film also had some natural conversation that did actually feel like how a family might converse over a Thanksgiving meal.

However, the Humans is a slow burning film, one that you will have to be in the right mindset to be in.  The story develops slowly and although it often does feel reasonably organic, it still could be tough to hold your interest.  Additionally, this slow burn feel is not helped by some sinister aspects that are introduced in the movie.  I couldn't tell if The Humans wanted to be a horror movie, but it had these moments that felt very much like the setup for something darker.  These felt clunky and ultimately didn't lead to much, and the additional concern is that these scenes felt unnecessarily drawn out.  The movie is not bad, but it does make this feel like an unnecessarily long experience despite the modest run time. 

The Humans has a fantastic cast and some very interesting cinematography, but the film's slow pace and strangely dark elements might make this a family meal you don't travel for. 

Rent it.

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The Humans is available in theaters and on Showtime on November 24, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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