#TIFF21: “THE HUMANS” REVIEW
By Amanda Gilmore
Writer-Director Stephen Karam exquisitely adapts his Tony-winning Play for the big screen.
The Film follows the Blake family over one eventful Thanksgiving. Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun) host the holiday event at their new rundown duplex in downtown Manhattan. They are joined by Brigid’s parents Erik (Richard Jenkins) and Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), dementia-afflicted grandmother, Momo (June Squibb), and lawyer big sister Aimee (Amy Schumer). Throughout the holiday, the family make niceties that soon turn to cruel jokes, past grievances are revived and secrets unfold.
The Humans is rich in character study and a meditation on existential dread, told during a holiday that is rarely explored in Film — particularly in this way. Karam places the camera in unique angles and closes up on rundown things, such as water damage. This, along with a supernatural aspect where sounds are heard, a ball drops from above and lights break at an alarming rate, give an eerie feeling that something isn’t quite right about this particular Thanksgiving.
This Story is anchored in the textured characters all experiencing their individual dread. Jenkins gives a momentous performance that’s both expressive and contained. Going between moments of mentioning how close his daughter lives to where 9/11 happened and how their home will be wiped out in the next Hurricane Katrina, and moments of staring off into the distance like he can see the distressing future ahead.
Yeun shines in showing the need Richard feels to get his girlfriend’s family to like him. Feldstein is wonderful as the ever positive yet secretly cruel Brigid. Her natural charm aides in making audiences still like Brigid in her crueller moments. Schumer does outstanding work as career-driven Aimee who is going through a breakup. A powerful moment comes when Aimee calls her ex-girlfriend in a quiet area of the apartment complex.
However, the real knockout of the Cast is delivered by Houdyshell, who is the only member reprising her role from the play. She gives a tour-de-force performance as the matriarch. Karam’s Script is loaded with the intimacy families have. They know each other best, meaning they know how to console and how to obliterate each other. This is truly examined through Deirdre and Houdyshell excels at showing the anguish and gratification her family give her.
Overall, The Humans is a powerful film about the human condition and is perfectly cast.
The Humans screens at TIFF ’21:
Sun, Sep 12 at 1:30 PM at Princess of Wales
Sun, Sep 12 at 7 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sat, Sep 18 at 1 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox