Review: Fully Realized Humans

Fully Realized Humans (2021)
Director: Joshua Leonard
Writers: Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler

I’m pretty sure I’ve worn Jess Weixler and Josh Leonard’s deflated, slightly glazed expressions in the above film still. They’re all dressed up for their baby shower — and these are possibly the nicest clothes they’ve worn in weeks — but instead of getting encouragement from their friends, they are forced to listen to a litany of complaints about parenthood. If you’ve been a first-time parent, you’ve been in this etiquette-defying situation. It’s one of the details this low-budget indie gets right as it tries to capture the mood of the final weeks of pregnancy: the anxiety, the mania, and the last-ditch efforts to prepare for the unknown. I also appreciated how this film don’t overstay its welcome. At 76 minutes, Fully Realized Humans is just the right length for a comedy with a somewhat thin premise. But I have to admit that it didn’t feel like a fully realized movie (sorry, couldn’t help myself). It felt more like a pilot for a new series, or maybe a missing episode from Joe Swanberg’s Easy.

Weixler and Leonard star as a couple, Jackie and Eliot, who in a misguided interpretation of their doula’s advice, decide to spend the last four weeks of Jackie’s pregnancy in a quasi-rumspringa of rule-breaking and boundary-pushing in which they free themselves of any psychological baggage that could damage their future child. For Jackie, the boundaries she wants to push are sexual; for Eliot, it’s about dealing with his suppressed rage. After those scenarios are exhausted, Jackie and Eliot commit a variety of petty crimes. It’s not clear why shoplifting and light vandalism might lead to psychological liberation for either of them, but, oh well, it’s kind of funny. Weixler and Leonard have real chemistry together and Weixler appears to be genuinely pregnant while filming, and likely in her third trimester, which gives the entire project a feeling of risk, as if the two actors really are racing against the clock.

The film is a bit wobbly when it attempts to take on more serious themes, such as Jackie’s enabling relationship with her drug-addicted father, and Eliot’s fear of his abusive father. The screenplay seems, at times, to be making an argument about the limits of therapy. Jackie and Eliot are two people who have been through a lot of talk therapy — you know this because they say so, but also because they are fluent in therapeutic language, and have a lot of self-awareness. When they argue, they are able to identify the dynamics at play and de-escalate their conflicts so that they don’t get out of control. They are good at working things out between themselves, but when other people come into the picture, they’re a mess. When they try to confront their parents, the conversation wavers between volatility and indifference, flummoxing Jackie and Eliot. Weixler and Leonard seem to hit a dead end here, as writers and actors, but maybe that’s the point. The baby is due, and they don’t actually have time to go deep. They’ll just have to try to do the best they can with what they’ve got, as all parents do.

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