Looking for a unique holiday movie? ‘The Humans’ is a dark, psychological drama

Thanksgiving may be a time for loving gatherings and joyful celebration for some families, but not for the Blake family in Stephen Karam’s dark, psychological drama “The Humans.” Erik and Deirdre Blake, played by Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell, travel from their home in Scranton, Pa., to spend the holiday in the almost completely unfurnished and somewhat dilapidated Manhattan apartment shared by their daughter Brigid and her boyfriend, Richard.

There’s this buzz of kind of anxious tension from the moment the family arrives.

And maybe a lot of people, I hope, just process their own family’s imperfect, wonderful, messy love that they have in their lives and around their own dinner tables.

HOUDYSHELL: Who Deirdre Blake is, basically – and I didn’t set out to do this consciously, but when I began working on it in – as the play, I realized that there were many parallels between my mother and the character of Deirdre.

That’s also, I think, a testament to Stephen Karam’s writing because it’s ultimately just very real.

It’s dark, with a stained ceiling and bubbling paint and this kind of harrowing spiral staircase that makes it impossible for wheelchair-bound Momo to get around.

KARAM: I did.

So it’s not only a character, it’s, in some ways, related to the audience because they essentially kind of become one with the space as they get to sometimes almost view the family as if they’re the space itself.

But at the same time, she’s really restrained in what she shares with them and how she shares it.

And we, as children do, particularly as we got older and into adolescence, we loved to make fun of our mother amongst ourselves and sometimes in front of her.

But now, in retrospect, living inside Deirdre Blake and having that relationship with her daughters, I see so completely how my mother must have internalized and repressed and suppressed all of her feelings.

After she’d have an interchange with them, you know, you then see her privately responding, but it’s just between Deirdre and the audience.

SNELL: Yeah, speaking of that, Stephen, all of the characters in this film are struggling with some pretty deep and personal pain.

KARAM: I think it’s more the latter.

I’m interested in the comedy of how, you know, Beanie Feldstein, who plays one of the daughters, how much she is like Jayne Houdyshell’s character, how much she’s like the mom.

Their movie, “The Humans,” is now playing in theaters and is available for streaming on Showtime, as well.

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