Film: Humane

Caitlin Cronenberg is the latest member of the famous Canadian filmmaking clan to direct, and based on Humane (2024), her sensibility is very much of a piece with her father David and up-and-coming brother Brandon. It does make me wonder what growing up in the Cronenberg household was like, given the twisted, thought-provoking sensibility of their collective body of work.

Humane presents a stark near-future wherein an ongoing resource-scarcity crisis has led to a worldwide population-reduction program. This doesn’t appear to present a problem to the wealthy York family, whose power and privilege will insulate them from the voluntary, payout-based euthanasia program—an injustice the cynical Jared (Jay Baruchel), who has connections in the government, rails about publicly even as he privately benefits. The crisis hits home, though, when narcissistic patriarch Charles (Peter Gallagher) invites his children to dinner to announce that he and his wife Dawn (Uni Park) have signed up to be put down, in a fit of guilt over bringing new life into a troubled, overtaxed world. A contentious family dinner follows, but right after Dawn gets cold feet about her decision and flees the house, the body collectors turn up, led by cheerfully sociopathic Bob (Enrico Colantoni). The Yorks, Bob claims, are contracted for two corpses, so one of Charles’ children will have to step up—a fine-print development that sets the family into frantic, violent conflict.

Humane is an appealing, low-budget tale of cautionary speculation with a timely premise and appropriately erratic tone. Sometimes it feels like perhaps it doesn’t have full command of that tone, mind you, and that may be a result of casting. Between Baruchel, Colantoni, and Emily Hampshire, there is enough comedic firepower to convincingly sell the film’s outlandish satirical reaches, not to mention make the conflict highly entertaining. But the younger half of the cast—Alanna Bale, Sebastian Chacon, and Sirena Gulumgaus—feel like they’re in a slightly different movie. Everyone performs well enough, but there’s some sort of ensemble disconnect that doesn’t entirely work. Nor, really, does the ending, which wimps out of the narrative-driving sociopolitical critique. Still, it’s a diverting watch that talks about interesting things while making the most of modest assets, something of a quirky contemporary of eat-the-rich projects like Fall of the House of Usher and Ready or Not.

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