Only Human Review
Most of what you need to know about Only Human can be gleaned from its opening credits. Bright, snappy and bordering on the kitsch, the various cast and crew members have their names appear over close-ups of gaudy wallpaper, tiles and carpet. The hectic nature of what is to come is therefore revealed, as is the primary setting: the compact apartment which houses four generations of one Jewish family.
Given this tiny setting and the fact that its inhabitants ranger from a blind, sex-obsessed grandfather to a precocious little brat, Only Human has something of the sitcom about it. Indeed, over its 85 minute running time, it has the sitcom-style democracy whereby each of the characters is allowed their big moment; that sitcom-style claustrophobia which prevents anything from developing too far beyond the norm; and that sitcom-style approach to humour in which the big joke is all and the clearer the better.
Of course, this isn’t to demean the sitcom form, after all it’s a mode of television which has produced a number of genuine masterpieces, even ones which stay firmly rooted within its confines. Yet Only Human is far closer to the sitcom pilot and herein lie its difficulties. Essentially, it’s trying just that little bit too hard to ingratiate itself towards an audience. The parade of eccentrics; the stream of Israeli-Palestine gags which point towards the risqué but are in fact quite safe; the ability to know exactly what kind of comic type a character is going to be within seconds of them first appearing on-screen. All of these demonstrate just how much effort the filmmakers are putting into getting us to like their work. Yet the strain is all too apparent, and it only serves to have the opposite effect.
Yet Only Human isn’t an outright failure and still possesses a certain entertainment value owing to its casting. Indeed, it is very much a well played piece work, with some notable physical clowning, but this doesn’t quite counterbalance the obviousness of the big gags. As such, it is left to the little moments to provide the moderate pleasures, all of which suggests that if Only Human were to be turned into a sitcom, it might actually grow into something worthwhile.
Only Human’s presentation is agreeable without particularly standing out. We get the film presented anamorphically and in its original aspect ratio. Plus it’s been transferred from a clean print which demonstrates superb clarity and detail. But then it also comes with burnt-in English subtitles which is likely to be a disappointment to many. Likewise, the soundtrack remains crisp and clear throughout, yet only comes in a DD2.0 form. For cinema screenings, the film came with a 5.1 mix and as such this downgrading can only be viewed as a disappointment.
As for extras, Only Human comes with a number of additions. The key piece is the commentary by writer-directors Teresa de Pelegri and Dominic Harari. Thankfully, they chat away in English which means that we don’t have to worry about any additional subtitles interfering with those which are burnt-in, but then it’s not a commentary with which most viewers will stay the duration. Though Harari is more talkative than de Pelegri, both come across as quite shy and never really get into any great discussion. As such we get odd bits of chatter here and there, but little of important.
Elsewhere on the disc we find a brief ‘making of’ featurette which proves diverting enough, plus a pair of deleted/alternative scenes which are largely ephemeral. That said, for such a minor title, such additions are far more than we’ve come to expect and as such Verve should be congratulated for putting in the effort.