A24 could almost qualify as a genre in itself at this stage. The distributor’s slew of offbeat masterpieces now means the name alone is a hallmark of cinema; so it seems only natural that The Humans, the screen adaptation of Stephen Karam’s Tony Award winning play exploring a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving, would fit into this oeuvre. A fine addition to the collection.

The Humans doesn’t shy away from its theatrical origins. It keeps its location fixed, a rundown NYC apartment, and its time frame compact, almost real time. However, its structural simplicity is upended by its uneasy visual style – the camera is often well off-centre or a set piece so dimly lit that a character is barely visible. In the wrong hands it could have come across as very “first day at film school” but, for the most part, makes total sense when creating a ramshackle house of horrors.

Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell, June Squibb and Amy Schumer, finally given a role to showcase her acting talent, join indie darlings Beanie Feldstein and Steven Yeun, each bringing equally delicate characterisation and pathos to the (dinner) table – to highlight any performance would be unfair on the rest. The chemistry is palpable and the characters, in their own way, both very funny and desperately sad. The film hinges on a fabulous dinner scene, but don’t expect screamy squabbles and flipped tables; Karam’s sharp script means each family member is unflinching and pinpoint in their insults, which hits harder than a drunken, sweary monologue ever could.

Its setup might feel overly familiar or its meticulous dedication to the offbeat a little laborious for some, but nevertheless, The Humans is a well executed, eerie and enthralling exercise in the uncanny which paints a puzzling yet gripping picture of the modern American family.



CAST: Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, June Squibb

DIRECTOR: Stephen Karam

WRITER: Stephen Karam

SYNOPSIS: The Humans follows the course of an evening in which the Blake family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving.