Thursday, May 23, 2024

“HUMANE”

THE STORYIn a wealthy enclave, a recently retired newsman has invited his four grown children to dinner to announce his intentions to enlist in the nation’s new euthanasia program. But when the father’s plan goes horribly awry, tensions flare and chaos erupts among his children.

THE CASTJay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Peter Gallagher, Sebastian Chacon, Alanna Bale, Uni Park, Enrico Colantoni & Sirena Gulamgaus

THE TEAMCaitlin Cronenberg (Director) & Michael Sparaga (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 93 Minutes


A group dinner rarely ends well in a film (see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Invitation,” and “The Celebration”). But Caitlin Cronenberg takes tense familial relationships to a gruesome level with her feature directorial debut, “Humane.” Joining the horror-leaning and twisted legacy of her father, David (“The Fly” and “Crimes of the Future“), and brother, Brandon (“Possessor” and “Infinity Pool“), Cronenberg shocks audiences in her own way with a tumultuous humanitarian crisis that impacts a well-off, strained family. Momentum might ebb and flow at times, but “Humane” will force viewers to confront their own mortality and what they would do as they watch a bloodbath take place among siblings.

In a likely not-so-distant future, environmental collapse is in the air. People must line up to get fresh water and walk around with reflective umbrellas to protect themselves from the ozone. Things have gotten so bad that every country has to shed 20% of its population to try to curb even more of this disaster. As a result, the government has created a euthanasia program that allows those who volunteer to leave behind a sum of money for their family members. Retired journalist Charles York (Peter Gallagher) is one of the people ready to take the plunge, but first, he has to tell his family about it and that his wife Dawn (Uni Park) will also be participating.

One by one, the dysfunctional York siblings arrive home. There’s Jared (Jay Baruchel), a cocky professor no one likes; Rachel (Emily Hampshire), a spitfire woman embroiled in legal drama; Noah (Sebastian Chacon), an addict in recovery who has a new lease on life with a new relationship; and Ashley (Alanna Bale), an aspiring actress who just can’t catch a break. It’s no surprise that Charles’ news doesn’t sit well with this mismatched group, and despite their best efforts, they can’t stop their patriarch from going through with the procedure. However, when things don’t go according to plan, they’re forced to make a life-or-death decision themselves, leading to an all-out war in this household.

If there’s one thing a Cronenberg film – from any of this family’s filmmakers – will give viewers, it’s a twisted spectacle, and “Humane” is certainly that. As the York siblings take on an every-man-for-himself mentality, any love they feel toward each other is lost and then replaced with hatred and fear. Specifically, Noah finds himself on the receiving end of most attacks, both verbal and physical, and his siblings debate whether his life is deemed worthy due to his struggles with addiction and the fact that he’s adopted. Chacon plays the role with such confidence, and it is often heartbreaking, especially as we see how much he’s committed to changing for the better, something the other York members don’t care to acknowledge. Baruchel, Hampshire, and Bale all play their vitriolic characters very well, so much so that you wish you could do to them what they do to Noah. When Noah eventually gets to enact revenge, cinematographer Douglas Koch plays with the dark environment to raise the fear level even more, as the characters never know if Noah may be lurking nearby.

Another highlight is the wickedly evil Department of Citizen Strategy employee Bob (Enrico Colantoni), who seems to love all the drama he has unleashed on this family. But audiences are left wanting more of him, especially when he’s essentially stuck in an RV with Rachel’s daughter Mia (Sirena Gulamgaus) while the York siblings battle it out. The tidbits we learn of his backstory are fascinating and show there’s more to his character than meets the eye, but, unfortunately, the movie isn’t that interested in getting to know him.

Writer Michael Sparaga’s ecological disaster story will force viewers to consider their own lives. As we see the climate crisis and threat of nuclear war at all-time highs in our own lives, this film doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Will our world need to shed its population in 10, 50, or 100 years to ensure enough resources are available? And, if so, how would people react? In all reality, the York siblings represent exactly what could happen: Fear taking over every inch of your body, leading you to show the ugliest parts of yourself to those you supposedly love. It’s terrifying to think about, which is what makes this film crawl under your skin more so than other horror/thrillers.

“Humane” is a stellar directorial debut from Cronenberg, who chooses to approach fear and horror in a realistic way. With a stellar cast behind the project, Sparaga’s script shines, even as it leaves some aspects to be desired. After seeing this family dinner turn catastrophic, “Humane” may make us wonder what a Cronenberg gathering entails.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A stellar directorial debut from Caitlin Cronenberg. A wonderful cast, with Sebastian Chacon and Enrico Colantoni as standouts. Rooted in a very possible reality, which makes this film crawl under your skin more than others.

THE BAD - It leaves some elements to be desired, such as expanding on Colantoni's character. Momentum ebbs and flows at times.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>A stellar directorial debut from Caitlin Cronenberg. A wonderful cast, with Sebastian Chacon and Enrico Colantoni as standouts. Rooted in a very possible reality, which makes this film crawl under your skin more than others.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It leaves some elements to be desired, such as expanding on Colantoni's character. Momentum ebbs and flows at times.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"HUMANE"