The Humans Parent Guide
This compelling drama provides a disturbing look at the layers of disfunction that wrap around this family.
Parent Movie Review
The Blake family Thanksgiving dinner this year is in Brigid’s (Beanie Feldstein) new Manhattan apartment, even though she and her boyfriend, Richard (Steven Yeun) haven’t even started moving in. Erik (Richard Jenkins), Brigid’s father, is making a fuss about what a high-risk flood zone the apartment is in, while her mother Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) is more concerned with the lack of any religious iconography and whether or not Brigid and Richard are planning to get married anytime soon. Aimee (Amy Schumer), Brigid’s sister, has been having an awful year of relationship issues and mounting health problems. Grandma, affectionately known as Momo (June Squibb), has dementia, and is almost entirely incoherent. As Thanksgiving dinner wears on, and tensions rise, family secrets emerge and patience wears thin.
Thanksgiving dinner is a notorious intensifier of family stress, and for the Blake family, there’s lots of family stress to go around. From a narrative standpoint, that’s great. It gives the actors lots of opportunity to develop their characters, and it keeps things interesting in what could otherwise be a fairly stolid family drama. Each scene has some new detail, some new twist on the lives of the characters which adds layer after layer of dimension to their squabbles.
The cinematography has more in common with horror movies than dramas, reminding us of Sartre’s famous quote, “Hell is other people”. There are no bloody knives or crazed psychopaths, just people slowly getting on each other’s nerves. The shots are frequently quite long, both in terms of duration and distance from the characters. We see parts of conversations through doorways, in mirrors, or hazily through windows, but seldom directly or all at once. The audience is kept to a voyeuristic periphery, watching helplessly as the Blake family members struggle to maintain a thin veneer of civility.
There’s surprisingly little in the way of content concerns here, but this isn’t going to be a film for younger audiences. Slowly developing interpersonal conflict is not typically appealing to the kids, and some of the subject matter is likely too adult for them anyway. Adults, on the other hand, will likely appreciate the excellent dialogue, solid character acting, and unsettling sound design and camera work. This is adapted from director Stephen Karam’s one-act play, also titled The Humans, and the film’s roots in the stage are apparent, combining a narrative reliance on acting with the opportunities afforded by the forced perspective of film – the best of both worlds, so to speak. If nothing else, hopefully this makes your own family dysfunction seem a little more…functional.Directed by Stephen Karam. Starring Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, June Squibb, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Jayne Houdyshell. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release November 24, 2021. Updated February 24, 2022
Watch the trailer for The Humans
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Humans rated R? The Humans is rated R by the MPAA for some sexual material and language
Sexual Content: There is one scene containing brief sexual references. There is a conversation about adultery.
Profanity: There are three uses each of both extreme profanity and scatological terms. There are infrequent uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen drinking socially with dinner.
Page last updated February 24, 2022
The Humans Parents' Guide
What does the order in which details come out tell the audience about the personalities of the characters? How do the revelations change the dynamics between characters as the film progresses? What impact does the director’s technique have on how we understand these relationships?
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Unsettling family dramas (verging on horror) can be found in films like The Father, The Lodge, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Power of the Dog, and The Little Stranger. Other movies shot on one set include Rope, 12 Angry Men, The Breakfast Club, Locke, Rear Window, 1408, and Lifeboat.