Humane Review: It’s All Just a Matter of Paperwork

Caitlin Cronenberg makes her feature directorial debut with “Humane,” an ecological thriller that challenges the boundaries of what we consider humane in an overpopulated world on the brink of collapse.

The film brings together an estranged Canadian family with diverse political opinions, different personalities and complicated relationships. One of the four children is a pro-government anthropologist, who is on TV night by night. A controversial and outspoken lawyer, known for her sharp tongue, adding immediate tension to the family dinner.

The youngest sibling is a traumatized recovering addict, who was adopted by the family and harbors guilt over a fatal car accident. The last one is an unemployed actor, struggling to find her place in the world. Completing the family gathering, the lawyer’s teenage daughter is in the mix to bring a youthful perspective to the discussion (not really fulfilling that purpose), with a subtle focus on social media and generational differences. It is just the cherry on top that their stepmother is an Asiant immigrant, she is in charge of the seventy-two courses served at the dinner.

In the opening scene, a catchy pop song (We’re Here for a Good Time [Not a Long Time] by Trooper) juxtaposes unsettlingly with images of families in line for food and people in blue safety suits removing corpses from homes. This immediately sets the stage for the wicked humor (love it) and eerie vibe that is more or less permanent in the film.

The apocalyptic setting is marked by an environmental crisis, fear-mongering, and closed borders. The government drafts individuals for euthanasia, leading to societal upheaval and a moral quandary: is anyone truly dispensable?

The cinematography is simple yet effective, with a contrast-heavy, shadowy aesthetic and a cool color palette. The minimalist interior design of the family’s home matches the tone and creates a micro cosmos. However, the uneven rhythm, sterile dialogue, and 2D characters prevents us from really caring for these people.

“Humane” touches on several relevant themes, including migration tensions, climate denial, and political corruption. Cronenberg effectively poses thought-provoking questions about the power of kindness, love, and unity in the face of survival but maybe less would have been more. Despite its ambitions, the film occasionally becomes cheesy and fails to dig deep enough into at least one or two of its themes.

Reportedly, distributors Elevation Pictures and IFC Films had limited faith in the movie’s commercial potential, resulting in a limited release and box office disappointment. Though it may not be a perfect movie (although how do you define perfect?), “Humane” offers an interesting experiment and a few wickedly funny moments. Suggestion: watch out for a character named „Bob”!

„Humane” serves as a solid starting point for a promising directorial career for Caitlin Cronenberg, who demonstrates great social awareness. Filmmaking might be just coded in the Cronenberg DNA after all.

You can now rent „Humane” on Apple TV, Amazon and Google Play.

~ by Dora Endre ~