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TIFF Review: ‘The Humans’ is a Relatable Look at the Ups and Downs of Family

November 26, 2021Ben MK

Thanksgiving is usually a time for family get-togethers. Still, no matter how many good intentions have gone into preparing that holiday meal, there's no telling what tensions will arise when relatives reunite. From the airing of grievances to unexpected revelations, it's an occasion that can be as awkward as it can be joyous. And in The Humans, writer-director Stephen Karam perfectly captures the spirit of the season, as he tells the story of one family gathering and all the laughter and tears that ensue.

Set completely within the confines of one rickety New York City apartment over the course of a chilly November evening, the film finds Brigid Blake (Beanie Feldstein) celebrating her new home by inviting her family to a Thanksgiving dinner prepared by her and her boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun). But while the housewarming gets off to a fairly innocuous start, it doesn't take long for the festivities to go awry, as personalities clash and deep-seated resentments to emerge. Whether it's her lawyer sister Aimee's (Amy Schumer) career troubles and her recent breakup with her partner Carol, or their dad Erik (Richard Jenkins) and mom Dierdre's (Jane Houdyshell) befuddlement over their kids' decision to choose therapy over church, there's no shortage of uncomfortable topics just waiting to be introduced into the conversation. Then, of course, there's Erik's wheelchair-ridden mother (June Squibb), who demands near-constant attention, thanks to her recent dementia diagnosis.

Adapted from Karam's own Tony-winning Broadway play, the result doesn't have much to offer audiences other than being a realistic look at what can happen when family members get together. However, if you're the type of viewer who enjoys watching fly-on-the-wall stories and naturalistic performances, The Humans is the very pinnacle of that style of moviemaking — as well as a very human slice of life that we can all relate to.

The Humans screened under the Special Presentations programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and is in select theatres and on Digital and Demand November 26th. Its runtime is 1 hr. 48 min.

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