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[Sundance ’21] ‘Human Factors’ review: Intelligently written home invasion tale

A thought provoking home invasion movie.

Human Factors is a different type of home invasion story screening a this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Instead of trying it terrify it’s audience, the story is more concerned with tension and perspective. The end result is an elaborate tale about family and trust. The question becomes does it become too wrapped up in its plot to be entertaining?

Making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Human Factors is about a married couple named Nina and Jan. The two own an advertising agency that has taken on a political campaign for their next project. To escape the tension at work, they decide to take their kids to their seaside vacation home. A break in changes their lives forever.

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Human Factors does a magnificent job of bulging the family dynamic. It is clear early on the love Nina and Jan have for their children does not seem to be shared between them. This is not a case of trying to make the marriage work for the kids. The couple are content in marriage and there are even times when they seem genuinely happy together. but it is definitely the children that are keeping the family together.

[Sundance '21] 'Human Factors' review: Intelligently written home invasion tale

This leads to the film’s main conflict. There were already issues before the home invasion; the incident just brings everything to the forefront. Writer-directed Ronny Trocker employs a unique tactic that allows the audience to see what has happened from different perspectives. It is creative though it can be difficult to follow at times.

This is most evident toward the end of Human Factors. A scene solves one of the film’s enduring mysteries while also calling back to a seemingly innocuous moment early in the movie. There will be discussion as to whether it is clever or too cute for its own good. It is certainly an inspired bit of filmmaking, but it also brings too much levity to a very serious story.

As the plot progresses, there are trust issues that should lead to more tension. The way the story is told is different, but it also has the audience trying to figure things out during the film. This would not be so bad if it were done a little more smoothly. Human Factors haphazard storytelling can be difficult to follow which ends up taking away some of the suspense.

[Sundance '21] 'Human Factors' review: Intelligently written home invasion tale

The film also touches on themes of acceptance. There is an undercurrent of xenophobia throughout Human Factors. Though it is never outright stated, Jan seems to be uncomfortable around Nina’s gay brother. Many people also talk dismissively about people from other countries. All this also feeds into the strained relationship between Jay and Nina.

Human Factors is an interesting look at a marriage that may be falling apart. Using mystery, writing, and a light score, the film tells a familiar story in a unique way. The story uses one of horror’s scariest premises to tell a very human story.  By the end, the audience will be asking questions. The question is, will they be the right ones?

Continue to check out AIPT for our ongoing coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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