The Humans

  • 11 Dec - 17 Dec, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

It’s the new home of Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and Richard (Steven Yeun), a relatively new unmarried couple who have just moved in, furniture still waiting to be delivered. They’re welcoming Brigid’s family for a Thanksgiving meal: her sister, Aimee (Amy Schumer), arriving from Philadelphia and her parents, Erik (Richard Jenkins) and Deirdre (Houdyshell), along with Erik’s mother, Momo (June Squibb), all driving in from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

There’s the familiar blend of conflicts, resentments and secrets but all have a believably mundane and human quality to them and Karam’s delicate writing tightly grips us even as they unfold quietly.

It’s already been said countless times about the play but Karam treats his family drama like it’s a horror, a quotidian spiral shrouded in an ever-creeping, and ever-unknowable, darkness. The new home becomes a haunted house of sorts and like the very best examples within genre fiction, it brings the fears of the characters simmering to the surface.

There’s disappointment, shame and worst of all, the stomach-pit terror that this just might be it, that the big change you were hoping for will probably never come and the overwhelming bareness of this new apartment forces them all to confront this devastating fact, for better or worse. Karam has a precise ear for how people actually interact with one another and every slight encounter and interpersonal dynamic here feels carefully considered. Despite the film’s foundations on stage, he avoids the expected deluge of monologues, with information and backstory revealed deftly instead. He lets moments sit, with small shreds of dialogue or telling facial reactions, his actors allowed to breathe despite the suffocating atmosphere.

There’s not one false note among his ensemble, who bicker and prod and soothe with such relaxed ease. Schumer is a particular surprise in her first convincing dramatic performance. It’s perhaps no big surprise that the greatest work here is done by Houdyshell, who has been with her character now for so long that it’s almost second nature, but her remarkably lived-in performance is still astonishingly impressive.

All in all, there’s something both reassuring and terrifying about it all, the family’s resilient warmth and togetherness providing comfort as the existential horror of what it all amounts to chills us simultaneously. The Humans is going to haunt us and it’s going to haunt you too.

– Compilation