#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
#TIFF21: IN CONVERSATION WITH… AND SPECIAL EVENTS ANNOUNCED
TIFF announced earlier today additional Special Events and In Conversations as part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. While virtual, fans globally can tune-in to chats with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Yeun, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Kristen Stewart this year.
Additional details below:
Special Events – Part 2
Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine
Before Drake and The Weeknd, there was a different set of Toronto musicians who ruled the roost. Known simply as Triumph, this rock trio dominated North American radio and mainstream charts in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and were the envy of the touring business — with even The Jacksons taking a page out of their live-show book. But despite being one of the world’s biggest rock bands, the trio split at the height of their fame and seemingly disappeared without explanation to their fans or media. Directed by Sam Dunn and Marc Ricciardelli, produced by the Emmy-winning Banger Films in association with Revolver Films and set to a mesmerizing visual backdrop of spandex, ’80s hair, and explosive pyro, Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine reveals a deeper story about fame and the human condition as the band reunites for what might be the very last time they play music together.
Reflecting on 9/11: A day of recollection, 20 years later.
The horrific news from New York City on that bright, late-summer morning 20 years ago tore open the bubble of the Toronto International Film Festival. Everyone was shaken, but, for the hundreds of Americans and New Yorkers in Toronto for the Festival that day, the shock went deeper. TIFF staff, led by then CEO Piers Handling and Executive Director Michèle Maheux, decided immediately to pause screenings, to shut down red carpets altogether, and to help people get home to their families.
Two decades on, memory becomes more important. This year, we remember the filmmakers who have sought to tell the stories of 9/11 with insight and empathy. We remember the still-present threat of Islamophobia, including in film and television. This year, we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with a day of recollection for our Festival community, including a special screening from Yard 44 and NBC News Studios, the new documentary Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11, by Bjørn Johnson and David Belton. This film explores the months following the worst terrorist attacks on the US, via recordings made in a simple video booth that captured the thoughts, feelings, and fears of more than five hundred Americans. Now, 20 years later, as the country and the world faces renewed uncertainty, Memory Box brings to the screen a collective, untold, and relevant story, presented by NBC News Studios, MSNBC Films and Peacock.
Platform Prize Jury
TIFF is also thrilled to announce the full international 2021 Platform Prize Jury. Led by Academy Award–nominated actor Riz Ahmed, the jurors include: Clio Barnard, Valerie Complex, Kazik Radwanski, and Anthony Chen.
In Conversation With…
This year’s In Conversation With… series connects audiences and film lovers around the world with some of the most talented artists working in film and television. The 2021 lineup includes award-winning actors and creators who have helped shape the discourse in the entertainment industry and who are presenting their highly-anticipated new films at the Festival. All In Conversation With… events are taking place digitally and will be accessible worldwide on the TIFF Bell Digital Talks platform.
The Academy Award–nominated writer, director, and actor joins us to discuss his wide-ranging career in film, television, and theatre; the challenges and joys of adapting Shakespeare’s plays for the big screen; and the journey of making Belfast (2021), a Gala Presentation at this year’s Festival and his most personal film to date.
Monday, September 13, 12pm EDT
The TIFF Tribute Actor Award recipient and Academy Award nominee joins us to discuss his career in film, theatre, and television, and his two films at this year’s Festival: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog and Will Sharpe’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.
Sunday, September 12, 3:30pm EDT
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of TIFF’s ongoing Share Her Journey initiative in support of women in the film industry, we proudly present a conversation with the award-winning actor about her collaborations with the likes of Olivier Assayas and Kelly Reichardt, and her portrayal of Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, a Special Event at this year’s Festival. Note: This live digital event is accessible to audiences worldwide on TIFF Bell Digital Talks for free as part of TIFF’s Share Her Journey initiative, empowering and celebrating women behind and in front of the camera. Audiences can pre-register for this exclusive event here.
Wednesday, September 15, 12:30pm EDT
The Academy Award–nominated actor joins us to retrace his extraordinary journey from collaborations with Bong Joon-ho, Lee Chang-dong, and Lee Isaac Chung to his upcoming film, Stephen Karam’s The Humans, a Special Presentation at this year’s Festival.
Sunday, September 12, 6pm EDT
Additional Visionaries speaker added to the 2021 TIFF Industry Conference lineup:
VISIONARIES Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Generously supported by Anne-Marie Canning
Born in Bangkok, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is one of the most influential and revered visual artists of this time. His incisive, visceral relationship with the moving image often draws on the ancestral myths of his country to reflect on his surroundings, from global social issues to the political concerns of modern Thailand. Join us for a conversation with the filmmaker, whose latest feature, Memoria, was one of two Jury Prize winners at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival moderated by TIFF Artistic Director & Co-Head Cameron Bailey.
TIFF 2021 Industry Selects
“These titles, hand-selected by TIFF’s Festival Programming team presented on our TIFF Digital Cinema Pro platform, are sure to garner interest from buyers,’’ said Diana Sanchez, Senior Director, Film. “They reflect the Festival’s global spirit and showcase a host of new voices and international talent.”
“We’re delighted to present these director-driven and audience-engaging sales titles from around the world to international buyers who rely on our festival to help discover the best cinema from across the globe,” added Geoff Macnaughton, Senior Director, Industry and Theatrical. “TIFF is thrilled to support buyers, sales agents, producers, and of course filmmakers this year with the TIFF Industry Selects distinction.”
107 Mothers Peter Kerekes | Slovakia
America Latina Damiano D’Innocenzo & Fabio D’Innocenzo | Italy, France
Cadejo Blanco Justin Lerner | Guatemala, USA, Mexico
Carmen Valerie Buhagiar | Malta, Canada
Cool Abdoul Jonas Backeland | Belgium
Domingo Raúl López Echeverría | Mexico, Austria, France
The Hole in the Fence Joaquín del Paso | Mexico, Poland
The King of All the World Carlos Saura | Mexico, Spain
La Civil Teodora Ana Mihai | Belgium, Romania, Mexico
The Last Mark Reem Morsi | Canada
My Night Antoinette Boulat | France
Night Blooms Stephanie Joline | Canada
Nightride Stephen Fingleton | UK
Nr. 10 Alex van Warmerdam | Netherlands, Belgium
Old Henry Potsy Ponciroli | USA
Onoda – 10,000 Nights in the Jungle Arthur Harari | France, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy
The Pink Cloud luli Gerbase | Brazil
Quake Tinna Hrafnsdóttir | Iceland
Reflection Valentyn Vasyanovych | Ukraine
The Score Malachi Smythe | UK
Shankar’s Fairies Irfana Majumdar | India
A Tale of Love and Desire Leyla Bouzid | France
The 2021 Toronto International Festival takes place September 9 – 19, 2021.
Official Film Schedule available here.
(Photo credit: Elevation Pictures)