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San Diego Film Festival

San Diego Film Festival celebrates our eleventh anniversary with five days filled with 100 award-winning films; intimate gatherings with filmmakers and celebrities; high-powered industry workshops and four nights of San Diego`s most glamorous parties.




"The Humans" - REVIEW


San Diego Film Festival Reviews: “The Humans”, United States, 2021, directed by Stephen Karam.


The second gala screening on Sunday was of “The Humans”, the film adaptation of the four time Tony award winning play also written and directed by Stephen Karam.


The film follows the Blake family’s Thanksgiving get-together as they navigate a series of bleak revelations and try to refrain from ripping each other apart, as most families do during the holidays. The family is comprised of a small but ferocious ensemble, including Momo (June Squibb), her son Erik Blake (Richard Jenkins), his wife Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), their daughters Aimee (Amy Schumer) and Brigid (Beanie Feldstein), as well as Brigid’s boyfriend Richard (Steven Yeun). Together they celebrate the holiday at Brigid and Richard's new pre-war duplex in downtown Manhattan.


The setting of the film is very reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy,” in the way the apartment is almost utilized as it’s own character, progressively becoming more and more claustrophobic as tension builds. The cinematography by Lol Crawley makes use of close-ups and wide shots with very little in-between, to subconsciously make the viewer feel uncomfortable. This aspect of the film, mixed with the production design by David Gropman, perfectly displays the uneasiness in both the way the characters gradually begin to interact with each other, as well as the themes that each person in the family brings to the dinner table.


This leads me to the overall story. It is less concerned with an overarching narrative, like the synopsis and trailer make it out to be, but instead is focused on stringing together a few vague elements of the human condition within a family unit. This is not to knock all of the writing, because there are some really powerful moments, but as a cohesive story it does not offer much to say, other than “being alive kind of sucks.” The story does have glimmers of strong writing, specifically it’s moments of dark comedy, but certain character storylines felt more impactful than others; specifically Aimee and Erik.


That being said, the performances are incredibly layered and mesmerizing to watch. As an ensemble, everyone in the cast synchronized with each other very well and displayed palpable chemistry. Amy Schumer surprisingly steals the majority of scenes she is in. This is one of her most mature and grounded performances that she has taken on, but she still maintains to exhibit a sense of dark humor within her character. 


Overall, the film is unique and crafted very well, but feels a bit hopeless, especially after enduring all of the trauma of the last two years. Don’t take what I just said as a criticism, but instead as more of a forewarning. A24 tends to manipulate movie goers with intriguing marketing material that never really encapsulates the actual tone of the story. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case the synopsis markets itself to be a horror film, the trailer markets it to be a family dramedy, but instead it pans out to just be an exhausting family get together full of existential crisis.




Score: 3.5/5


Written by Michael Schnee





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San Diego Film Festival celebrates the art & style of film for five days in September with 100 award-winning films; intimate gatherings with filmmakers and celebrities; high-powered industry workshops and five nights of San Diego`s most glamorous parties!

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