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(Check out Chris Reed’s movie review of Humane. The film opens today in select theaters via IFC Films before hitting Shudder July 26. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

There are many dire crises that humanity must now, and in the future, confront. Beyond the increasing disparities between the haves and have-nots, the horrors of war and genocide and the refugees they create, and many more atrocities too numerous to be listed here, the very real dangers of the present-and-pending climate catastrophe loom like the sword of Damocles over all our heads. We must do something—or many things—and do them soon, lest our fates be sealed. In Humane, photographer-turned-director Caitlin Cronenberg (daughter of David and sister of Brandon), making her feature debut, explores one solution to the latter issue. Eliminate people, and there is less of a problem. Simple enough.

Not so fast. Working from a script by Michael Sparaga (United We Fan)—also a producer on the project—Cronenberg plunges headfirst into what is already a fraught method of population control. It seems that someone, somewhere, has proposed paying people to euthanize themselves. Though this is a purely voluntary action, it takes no great leap of imagination to guess that the poor are far more likely than the wealthy to choose euthanasia if it will help their families. The manner of death may be “humane,” but the system still stinks.

Enter the York family. Charles York (Peter Gallagher, Palm Springs), a former bigtime TV news anchor, and his second wife, Dawn (Uni Park, Strangers in a Room), a famous chef, have decided to set an example by signing up for the procedure, despite their wealth and apparent good health. To announce their plans, they invite Charles’ children for dinner, none of whom get along. There are four—Jared (Jay Baruchel, BlackBerry), Rachel (Emily Hampshire, Self Reliance), Ashley (Alanna Bale, Lune), and Noah (Sebastian Chacon, Emergency)—with the last one an adoptee (and Latinx, which proves relevant). Rachel, despite instructions to the contrary, has brought her daughter, Mia (Sirena Gulamgaus), along, as well. The night goes quickly awry.

What makes everything worse is that Dawn changes her mind, disappearing right before the arrival of D.O.C.S. (Department of Citizen Strategy) employees. Contracted for two bodies, D.O.C.S. expects two bodies. Who, therefore, will be the second? Not surprisingly, no one wants to go willingly. The rest of the film is a twisted tragicomedy of errors. And very violent, veering close to body horror in some instances (the mark of the Cronenberg clan).

Mixing gore and humor—the latter coming mostly from Bob (a delightful Enrico Colantoni, Vandits), the head of the exceedingly stubborn D.O.C.S. unit—Humane is frequently entertaining in a schadenfreude kind of way. The Yorks (except for Mia) all deserve their fate, to some degree. And so does homo sapiens, given what we’ve made of ourselves. This is certainly one method to put us out of our misery.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

IFC Films; Caitlin Cronenberg; Humane movie review

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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