Tribeca Review: Fully Realized Humans
The prospect of parenthood can be terrifying. Am I at all prepared? you may ask. Is there any way I can guarantee I won’t screw up my kid’s life? Far from having too few resources, there are now arguably too many — the slews of classes and methods and guidebooks and newfangled technology threaten to completely overwhelm young mothers- and fathers-to-be. All this comes to a head for Jackie and Elliot, the expectant parents played by Jess Weixler and Joshua Leonard, respectively, in Leonard’s Fully Realized Humans. After a disastrous baby shower in which their friends recount both the physical horrors of childbirth and the emotional horrors of childrearing in a sequence that feels like it could belong in one of Oliver Stone’s anti-war films, Jackie and Elliot fall into an existential tailspin and decide that in order to give their kid the best chance at success (and avoid repeating their own parents’ mistakes), they need to face their own deep-seated traumas and insecurities, thus setting them off on a quest towards becoming the title concept.
Fully Realized Humans works primarily due to the insight and easy chemistry of Weixler and Leonard. Clocking in at a brisk 74 minutes, the two maintain a rapid pace that serves their improvisational dialogue style well, though the brevity does make for a resolution that comes a little too quickly. But it’s usually better to get out early than overstay your welcome, and Leonard and Weixler make the most of the time they have — credited with co-writing the screenplay, the two leads ultimately craft an impressively nuanced emotional narrative, filled with often hilarious back-and-forth and culminating in an unexpected but inevitable confrontation that, despite the abruptness of reaching it, ties the whole film together.
With Leonard having recently become a parent and Weixler eight months pregnant during the course of filming (a detail that does wonders for the movie’s sense of realism), the authenticity leaps off the screen, even when the situations the two put themselves in reach towards a level of comic absurdity. A sequence involving their decision to become more sexually adventurous is uproariously funny, but it takes itself seriously and is filled with real empathy and consideration. The same goes for a through-line involving their respective families — Weixler and Leonard are unafraid to confront darker elements of trauma and insecurity rooted in their characters’ relationships with their parents, and though there are jokes aplenty, these issues are never made to be a punchline. It’s this kind of emotional maturity that Jackie and Elliot spend the film trying to convince themselves they have — if the movie surrounding them is any indication, it’s a trait that Weixler and Leonard have in spades, and one that should continue to serve them well in their future filmmaking endeavors.