Humane (2024)

Humane Review


The latest branch of the Cronenberg cinematic family tree is ‘Humane,’ Caitlin Cronenberg’s directorial debut with Jay Baruchel, Peter Gallagher, and Emily Hampshire. Surreal terror should not be expected by those who want additional body horror imagery from David Cronenberg or Brandon Cronenberg in this film. But there is unquestionably thematic connective tissue: once again, this is a genre flick about losing control of your own being.

A clever premise kicks off Michael Sparaga’s script imagining a world where forced euthanasia is a result of climate change and overpopulation. However it then has almost no idea what to do with it as the film dissipates into an unbelievability-making series of decisions by people we don’t care about shot in a surprisingly flat style by Cronenberg. ‘Humane’ has its nightmare vision believability level end up being the scariest thing about it. But we’re never given a reason to care about these specific people so the micro approach to a macro crisis in the movie never connects.

Every bit of ‘Humane’ takes place on one day at the fancy home of former news anchor Charles York (Peter Gallagher), who brings his family together as an international order that 20% of the entire population must be diminished rocks the world; who would be forced into euthanasia? Would there be “Purge”-like lawlessness? The most famous York son, Jared (Jay Baruchel), seems like he’s profiting off global misery; he’s a Tucker Carlson-esque talking head who believes national euthanasia is for the greater good.

Charles changes up the family gathering when he tells them that he and his latest wife, Dawn (Uni Park), have volunteered to shuffle off this mortal coil, and an oily technician named Bob (Enrico Colantoni) shows up to get it done. While they’re all still reeling from that announcement emotionally, something goes wrong of course and the kids have to pick another person to fulfill the order. You can imagine how that goes. Resentments, regrets, and just general sibling rage fill out “Humane,” which plays like a particularly vicious episode of “Succession” in which the Roys have to choose which one of Logan’s kids they’re going to kill.

That actually might make it sound more fun than this film ended up being. Most of what’s clever about “Humane” exists on its fringe perhaps including that a Cronenberg has made a movie about nepotism primarily in how it throws its characters from their ivory tower and watches them fight in the mud over who gets to climb back up. The social commentary talking points embedded in “Humane” are unquestionably interesting, but too many of them feel superficial, flirting with privilege ideas without having much to say about them. Jared is the kind of guy who goes on TV to be a shill for his government, even suggesting he’d sacrifice his own child if asked. What happens when someone like that has to live by those words?

One more quirky performance by Baruchel (he always delivers) as a reformed anthropologist who has studied human beings enough to know how to survive at the top of the food chain. Colantoni also gets some fun beats as a man who’s seen it all since the euthanasia order went into effect, someone who may have been enjoying his job a little too much.

Everything else is kind of thin. Emily Hampshire, Alanna Bale and Sebastian Chacon play the other three York children, and none of them comes across as three-dimensional, which is a fatal flaw in a movie that tosses characters off each other like bounding balls in a single setting. Hampshire’s an obvious sociopath who probably thinks 20% should be doubled; Bale hardly registers at all; Chacon, as the adopted York child, threatens to add an exciting layer to the debate before being discarded for a twist.

This might be forgivable if “Humane” had stronger visual language. Cronenberg eventually has some sick fun with close-ups of the bloody stuff, but most of this film is surprisingly flat and poorly lit, it ranges from too dim to bizarre overhead bright lights that look like an interrogation room.

There are nuggets of amusement and insight buried throughout “Humane,” some in news footage about how the rest of the world is handling this crisis. The movie is clearly a COVID allegory, with a patriarch who’s profited off misinformation and fear-mongering kicking off an everything-in-one-place thriller. But it’s all concept over execution. “Humane” ends up being an interesting story told in deeply uninteresting fashion.

Watch Humane For Free On Gomovies.

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