Humane Review: All in the Family

The directorial debut of Caitlin Cronenberg

Imagine needing an umbrella with UV-protective lining to get in and out of your vehicle each day. Or having to cover your windows in a special film to shield oneself from the piercing arrows of sun’s rays. This is the sad environmental reality that exists in Caitlin Cronenberg’s directorial debut Humane.

Cronenberg ‘s thriller is set in a near future where the climate crisis has reached critical point. Humanity has no other option put to take drastic measures.

Failing to reach their environmental saving targets, the Canadian government has come up with an emergency euthanasia program that will help to reduce the population by 20%. Using various marketing campaigns to soften the public perception of this controversial measure, families are encouraged to have loved ones volunteer to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The incentive being, outside of helping to save the earth, is that the remaining family members will receive monetary compensation for their loss.

While money may temporarily bandage the gash that loss causes in one’s heart, it does little to mask one’s true feelings about the barbaric policy. Even those who work for the Department of Citizen Strategy (aka. D.O.C.S.), the group responsible for administering the lethal procedure in a humane way, seem disgusted by it. However, there are people who will not hesitate to sing its praise for personal gain.

One of those individuals is Jared York (Jay Baruchel), an anthropologist and right-wing television pundit, who is frequently spouting its virtues on various news networks. Part of the reason Jared can confidently champion the program’s merits is that, deep down, he knows it won’t impact him.

He enjoys this confidence because he comes from the wealthy York family, the upper crust of society. The unspoken targets of the reduction initiative are the poor and minority members of the community.

However, Jared’s safety bubble bursts when he is invited to a family dinner at his father’s house. Gathering his children together, famed journalist Charles York (Peter Gallagher) announces that he and their stepmother Dawn Kim (Uni Park) have decided to volunteer for the program. Before Jared and his siblings – which include corrupt business mogul Rachel (Emily Hampshire), failed actress Ashley (Alanna Bale), and adoptive son/recovering addict Noah (Sebastian Chacon) – can process the information, Dawn flees minutes before the D.O.C.S. representatives, led by Bob (Enrico Colantoni in a scene-stealing turn), arrive.

Refusing to leave without the two bodies that he was promised, Bob informs the siblings that they will have to choose who among them will take Dawn’s place.


Setting into motion a bloody battle of wills, Humane uses the York clan to take satirical jabs at many of the hypocrisies within our current society. The film works best when exploring the ways capitalism thrives in times of crisis, and the role class and race often play in deciding who sacrifices the most in the name of mankind.

The disposing of others for one’s personal gain may sound like Cronenberg’s film is an eco-inspired version of The Purge, but Humane veers closer to the lane in which Daniel’s Gotta Die, a Canadian black comedy released this year, travels. In both films, the audience observes how easily money can shift loyalties, and the sheer disconnect that those with privilege have from the real world.

Confidently forging her own creative path, Cronenberg’s style and sensibilities are distinct from her filmmaker father David Cronenberg (Crash, History of Violence) and brother Brandon Cronenberg (Infinity Pool). Offering plenty of humorous social commentary and chilling horror beats, the director displays much promise.

Although there is plenty to enjoy here, Humane never quite cuts as deep as it could have. Once the blood begins to flow, and figurative lines are drawn in the sand, Cronenberg’s film loses some its satirical bite. Relying a little too much on plot convenience, film struggles to maintain the sense of tension its first half worked so hard to build.


As the film unravels, and the bloodlust overshadows the complicated family dynamics, it becomes evident that there is just not enough dimension to the York siblings for one to care either way what happens to them. Aside from Noah, the steady voice of reason wading in the rocky waters of chaos in which his siblings swim, the characters are never given a chance to become more than one-note archetypes.

Cronenberg clearly has an exciting future ahead of her, one that will no doubt be filled with memorable works. However, Humane does not quite reach that level. It is a film that features some sharp environmental and social commentary, but the lack of character dimensions ensures that the film will not linger in the mind long.

Humane opens in theatres on April 26th.