Wednesday, January 5, 2022

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[Review] The Humans (2021)

"And now, maybe loving someone long-term is more about deciding whether to go through life unhappy alone, or unhappy with someone else?" - Aimee (Amy Schumer)

A movie set in a single room is nothing new, yet for this play-based depiction of annual family outbursts, it's never quite the same. Unlike any other which mostly turns into a neverending shouting match, The Humans' means of storytelling is never wide and exposed. Instead, it's compact, brief, brimming with mysterious intentions that many times even ascend into horror impulses. Sporadically, it chooses to go to some lengths with its heated exchanges, veering more into revealing the intense, sincere inner feelings. Yet, it never remains exactly that way. As soon as The Humans reaches a certain emotionally revealing point, it retracts itself, stepping back a couple of steps then resuming its usual pattern of appropriateness. By doing this seemingly mundane means, the movie constantly sustains its intriguing gist, carefully sewing these undertones in between the loving, warm Thanksgiving backdrop. 

In contrast to its passing conversations, the camera lingers, focuses on insignificant objects every now and then, unconsciously and eerily dissociating itself from the whole discourse but never physically leaving. When the same camerawork is applied to each character, however, it achieves a different effect: we see them in their everchanging nuances, allowing their underlying shame, guilt, and anguish to be implicitly expressed through the lens. This subtle contrast between dialogue and visuals is essentially what sets The Humans apart from its counterparts, a contrast that makes us realize how humans' embarrassment of vulnerability and avoidance of truth can translate into something akin to growing overwrought trepidation. It's a horrific feeling so nerve-wracking yet it's almost impossible to look away, and in the end, you just can't help but keep digging till its very core. Interestingly, The Humans never once arrives at that final destination, as it doesn't offer a rush of cathartic sentiments, but rather a mere silhouette of human emotions spectrum that aligns well with its diegetic humane scope. With equally strong cast dan dynamic directorial choices, The Humans is an atmospheric roundtable drama that packs more questions and context than answers and exposition, making it one of the more interesting outings of the year, featuring quite possibly one of the most effective uses of cramped settings in the genre.


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