Humane review — Family feud gets stabby

Directed by Caitlin Cronenberg | Written by Michael Sparaga | 93 min | ▲▲▲△△ | VOD and Digital

Yes, indeed, another scion of David Cronenberg has gone into the family business, but before you cry “nepobaby,” consider her brother Brandon’s fantastic career so far. The talent is there, and frankly it takes a lot more than a familiar name to have a career making movies in Canada. Caitlin’s been paying her dues for years as a photographer, on set and off, so knows her way around the equipment. This effort shows a gift working with actors and a lot of promise managing a difficult tone, satire. The last voice we hear on screen clearly belongs to Dad, but nobody’s holding her hand.

Humane is a clever single-location comedic thriller, one with a terrific concept. It doesn’t entirely hold together, but it does take a largely unlikeable group of characters and almost makes us cheer for them. That ain’t nothing.

The Yorks have the world by the tail despite a dystopia, not unlike the late-capitalism on display in a show like Succession. The solution to environmental collapse has been found, and it’s euthanasia — a healthy percentage of the population will be drafted to give their lives, and the rest are encouraged to volunteer.

Former news anchor Charles  (Peter Gallagher) is the York pater familias, and he and his most recent wife, Dawn (Uni Park), have decided to enlist, which they reveal at a family dinner. Eldest son, Jared (Jay Baruchel) is a right-wing TV news pundit in support of society’s death plan, though shocked that his father would choose it. The presumption, naturally, is the wealthy are exempt from all this unpleasantness.

Rachel (Emily Hampshire), the eldest daughter, is embroiled in scandal with her big pharma job. Adoptive son, Noah (Sebastian Chacon), is an addict with secrets, but he’s tight with younger sister, Ashley (Alanna Bale). None of them are paragons of humanity, let’s say that. Teen Mia (Sirena Gulamgaus), Rachel’s daughter, might be the only decent one.

Into this unhappy evening  arrives Bob (the movie’s MVP, Enrico Colantoni), a (literally) blue-collar euthanizer, and his fellow goons. Problem is Dawn has bolted. Rules are rules — Dad’s OK with going on his own, but another body has to be provided, as per the contract. This puts the remaining Yorks at odds with each other.

All shot at a mansion on Ravenscliffe Avenue in Hamilton, Ontario, a block away from the Waterford’s house from the early seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a clever single-location picture that gets pretty gory late in the running but still eschews the body horror Cronenberg Sr built his reputation on. Plenty of grisly darkness at play here, though maybe not as biting or funny as, say, Knives Out or Bodies Bodies Bodies, recent comedy thrillers with which Humane shares a few cosmetic similarities, but it does have a fun, genuine b-movie nastiness about it, especially toward the end as the blood starts to spurt and splash.

The targets of the script’s big-money skewering are sitting ducks, but the universe-building works well, and Colantoni’s Bob is who you’ll remember after you’re done. He’s a peach.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.