Jay Baruchel, Caitlin Cronenberg explore morality of murder in 'Humane'

Jay Baruchel stars in "Humane." Photo courtesy of IFC Films and Shudder
1 of 5 | Jay Baruchel stars in "Humane." Photo courtesy of IFC Films and Shudder

LOS ANGELES, April 25 (UPI) -- Director Caitlin Cronenberg and star Jay Baruchel said their movie Humane, in theaters Friday, explores characters who are figuring out where they stand morally in an emerging global crisis.

In the near future, an environmental crisis leads to a government program in which 20% of the population can enlist in a euthanasia program to make the planet habitable for the other 80%.


Jared York (Baruchel) has been touting the program on television, but is surprised when his father, Charles (Peter Gallagher), volunteers.

"You can get behind anything and you can tell yourself anything," Baruchel told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "I think he's full of [expletive], but he probably thinks this is as good a way to fix things as any."

Cronenberg said Humane also takes place only nine months into the crisis. The Yorks gather for dinner, and each family member expresses a different point of view. Some wholly endorse the euthanasia program and others fully resist it.


"You can't know how you're going to react in a situation that you've never been in before," Cronenberg said. "We don't know what the answer is when we're still trying to figure out what the situation is."

The script by Michael Sparaga confines Humane to the York house. Evidence of the global crisis appears on newscasts and is discussed on the radio.

Cronenberg said the limitations in Humane's scope had a benefit of depicting how a global crisis might appear to individuals. She likened Humane's crisis to early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people who were isolating could only watch the news and see their immediate neighborhood.

In Humane, people are taking basic precautions to mitigate the extreme ultraviolet rays to which they are now exposed.

"You walk outside your door and the only real difference is people have umbrellas ," Cronenberg said. "Like COVID, you could walk outside and think everything's normal when it's not."

As his character is a spokesperson for the enlisting effort, Baruchel said he drew inspiration from advocates who appear on news shows, though did not name specific personalities. She said people like Jared depend on crises for their livelihood..

"There's an inherent conflict of interest because it is in their best interest to have stuff to opine about," Baruchel said. "If everything's going OK and everybody's happy, these people have no jobs."


Jared never expected members of his family would volunteer, Baruchel said. Charles' volunteering puts Jared's spin to the test.

"I think in any sort of conversation or intellectual exercise, he would pretend that he accepts that as a possibility and thinks that that's fair," Baruchel said.

Humane is the first feature film from Caitlin Cronenberg. The daughter of director David Cronenberg and sister of director Brandon Cronenberg, Caitlin began her career as a photographer.

Caitlin Cronenberg said being the still photographer for films such as Room, Possessor and Cosmopolis taught her to choose her first feature film carefully.

"If you don't love the project that you're working on, it will get old very fast," she said. "You have to be ready to jump into something that you're going to still be enjoying working on and talking about five years later."

Caitlin said she does not specifically discuss filmmaking with her father and brother, though has shot stills for both of them and watched them work.

"I learned everything I could learn from being around film, both on their sets and all the other sets I've worked on," Caitlin said.

Caitlin Cronenberg said she also trusted her cast, whose members made more movies than she had.


"There's no scenario in which I would come onto the set and be like 'I know more than you guys about this' because I just don't," she said.

Baruchel, who directed Goon: Last of the Enforcers and Random Acts of Violence, said he wanted to be a resource upon which Caitlin Cronenberg could rely, too. He said he encouraged her to focus on her own vision amid her interest in others' perspectives.

"In moments where there's a bunch of people talking, I want to yell, 'Guys, the director is speaking,'" Baruchel said. "She doesn't have to listen to me or anybody else."

Caitlin Cronenberg said she is naturally an introvert, and that Baruchel and Emily Hampshire, who plays Jared's sister in the movie, helped her express herself on set.

"Even yelling 'action' loudly is hard for me," Caitlin Cronenberg said. "It was very helpful to have Jay and Emily to bring it out of me and to remind me that it's OK to be a bit more forthcoming and a bit more tough."

Shudder will stream Humane beginning July 26.


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