The filmmaking ventures from the Cronenberg family continue, as Caitlin Cronenberg follows in the footsteps of her father David and brother Brandon.  Fortunately, her directorial debut Humane is much more of a reassuring spotlight on her potential as a storyteller.

David Cronenberg is a legendary, trailblazing Canadian filmmaker, and it seemed as though Brandon Cronenberg would be his protégé.  Brandon has been called an auteur based on his uncut horror flicks Possessor and Infinity Pool, but he usually favours a shorthanded story because he’s more interested in his own dizzying in-your-face flare. Humane may not boast the same type of flash, but only because Caitlin is more interested in finding the style that best suits the story.  Much like when Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch, made Surveillance, an investigative thriller that played its strengths close to its chest.

Humane’s screenplay, to my surprise, was penned by Michael Sparaga.  Ater having previously written a funny workplace comedy (Servitude) and made some good documentaries (The Missing Ingredient: What Is the Recipe for Success?United We Fan), he changes his stripes once again to take on a contorted mash-up of a social thriller and a dark comedy of manners. Humane is a solid example of a filmmaker and a screenwriter making an ideal pair.

As part of a new world order to control the global population and reduce it by 20%, people are encouraged to volunteer for a program that would respectfully and safely euthanize them.  The opportunity intrigues a retired newscaster, Charles (Peter Gallagher of Netflix’s Grace & Frankie), who also convinces his wife, Dawn (Uni Park), that they should sign up together.  Despite keeping this decision quiet, Charles wants to bring his family together for one last dinner.  He plans on breaking the news, but his wayward kin have large personalities that result in entitled, passive-aggressive debates and arguments.  When Dawn has a change of mind and a persistent pencil-pushing undertaker, Bob (Enrico Colantoni), demands that the original contract should be fulfilled – two bodies must be collected.  Dinner turns into an evening of finger-pointing as everyone starts offering up each other.

Presenting itself as Canada’s more mature alternative to Blumhouse’s Purge franchise, Humane is better on a broader scale.  Individual sore spots, such as undistinguished camerawork, generic set dressing, and miscast roles (Jay Baruchel as a professor assisting the government, Emily Hampshire as Charles’ prickly and profane daughter), are easily forgiven in comparison to the satirical, wry juxtaposition of the tense stakes;  averaging the indie out as as a unique bottle thriller that’s worth renting.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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