Life and death coalesce with immense emotional impact in this short film, directed by K. Spencer Jones and written by David Beatty. The Human Project takes a poignant and heartfelt stab at depicting a true representation of humanity through the window of two siblings who have recently experienced a loss and are now exploring their own connection through the chasm it has created.
Chelsea Alden plays Frances, a young woman currently in the great outdoors, alone. She decides to phone her brother Marcus (David Beatty) and see if he got her note, after which the pair embark on a game of phone tennis. Numerous conversations occur between the siblings, most of which are layered with angst or aching sentiment, however, two main topics are always in the foreground: Marcus’s involvement with the titular NASA project (whereby he will contribute a 140-character summary of what humans are all about to send across the Milky Way), and the recent passing of their father, whose memorial Frances plans on skipping.
Told with a remarkably tender combination of affection, grief, anger, love and humour, The Human Project is a sublime piece of filmmaking. The story is utterly grounded by these two engaging and believable characters, which allows the merging of so many themes and emotions. The exceptional performances by Alden and Beatty go a huge way to contribute to this success, riffing with each other with great chemistry, in particular when they join each other in the same location. The moments where the tensions run the highest, such as Marcus getting enraged and letting loose a cacophony of sweary fury at his sister, are all the more stirring because the players are so committed to the moment and characters.
There is a whimsical feel to the short film too, which allowed an atmosphere of imaginative creativity to puncture the dour tone at times. This was important as it reflected the longing that both characters had to experience childhood together, their age gap preventing them from being playmates during a time where imagination and freedom were easier to come by. Something which Marcus comments on being a uniquely subconscious bonding experience. And it is this spectacular insight into his own relationship with his sister, as well as other moving moments of clarity, which becomes the revelation to the audience that we are in the process of witnessing The Human Project in real time.
A short film that transcends the usual hustle and bustle of familial stories to deliver something altogether more affecting and intelligent. The moving performances and sensational writing allow the movie to explore a wholly immersive form of storytelling that is as transportive for the viewer as it is for the characters and the result is utterly sensational.
The UK Film Review