Sundance 2021: Human Factors

It starts with a home invasion. Jan (Mark Waschke) and Nina (Sabine Timoteo) have taken their family to their vacation home in a coastal town where the trouble awaits. Jan is outside on the phone when he hears a scream. When no second scream is forthcoming, he resumes his call, unaware that his wife has just encountered people in the house, who flee before anyone else spots them. Rattled, Jan and Nina share their bed with their two children that night, a young son named Max (Wanja Valentin Kube) and teenage daughter Emma (Jule Hermann), their restful weekend getaway already shattered.

Forging on with the weekend in an attempt to put the incident behind them, it would seem their shaky nerves aren’t the only thing troubling this suburban family. Everything is off-balance. Jan hates that Nina has called her brother, who swoops in to the rescue. Nina hates that Jan has made a huge decision at their mutually owned and run business by himself. Jan suspects the break-in is a product of Nina’s nervous imagination, since she’s the only witness. And son Max accuses his father of “hiding” during the incident. Seeds of doubt and mistrust have been sown this weekend, and soon these weeds are growing out of control through the cracks of their family’s core. This has been a triggering event that challenges our notion of truth and of perspective. There is no one narrative, only shifting lenses that reveal the fragility of familial bonds.

Though I admire writer-director Ronny Trocker’s film thematically, I found the viewing experience to be less than ideal. Not because it’s brutally tense, though it is. And not because the characters aren’t particularly likeable, though that’s true too. The incident in question, whether or not it happened, was fairly trivial, and of no real consequences. Yet this relatively small stone thrown into the family puddle creates unexpected ripples whose effects are long-lasting. It’s really just a trigger point to expose already-existing fault lines, and then we sit back and watch this family quake. My problem with the film is that it was simply a boring watch. I wasn’t compelled by this characters, and didn’t much care about the aftershocks or the outcome for this family. Human Factors means well but asks for too much patience in exchange for too little pay out.

2 thoughts on “Sundance 2021: Human Factors

  1. Liz A.

    I’m sad that a woman’s word isn’t believed in this group. But does that mean she’s not reliable? Or that they just dismiss her? If it’s a boring movie to boot…

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