Only Human [subtitled]

Only Human

Its premise and characters are promising, but the Spanish farce Only Human never rises above a mediocre level.

A young Jewish woman brings her fiancé home to meet her family. They’re impressed that he is from Israel originally, and of course assume he’s Jewish. But the twist is he’s Palestinian. So there’s that whole issue of when and how she will tell them, and how they will take it.

Things get even trickier when early in the visit he drops a container of frozen soup out the window onto a passerby, who might be dead and/or might be the father returning home from work.

All or most of the characters are at least somewhat interesting and have potential to be quite amusing, but none are really classic, memorable characters who live up to that potential.

The main couple are fine but not special. The rest of the oddball family consists of the stereotypical Jewish mother, alternately controlling and doting on all around her; the slutty sister who works as a belly dancer; the sister’s little daughter with a penchant for doing and saying whatever will embarrass the already nervous fiancé; the teenage brother who jumps from fad to fad and is currently on an Orthodox kick, which means he spends the bulk of the movie annoying everyone else by futilely trying to enforce Sabbath restrictions on the household; and the blind, slightly crazy grandpa.

So certainly goofy enough characters and goofy enough situations for some laughs, and indeed the movie does provide a few chuckles. But I just have the sense a lot more could have been done with this set-up. Even the whole Jewish-Palestinian thing doesn’t amount to much. For long stretches of the movie it’s not even a factor.

When the couple fights toward the end, and they instinctively fall back on their ethnic identities in attacking each other, it looks like the movie might be taking an interesting turn into a more serious area, but just like with the comedy, nothing much develops from that.

The movie gets points for the fact that the slutty sister is topless for the duration of her first scene, though shaving her armpits and bickering through the bathroom door with her little brother isn’t exactly the most erotic of contexts. Still, tits are tits, and at some level I felt myself favorably disposed toward her for the whole movie because she had been introduced that way.

The movie loses points for poor subtitling—white with little or no border, and thus close to unreadable when the background happens to be light. So I missed 20%-25% of the dialogue.

All-in-all, Only Human is a light, inconsequential affair with enough humor that if it were in English I’d rate it as an average to below average comedy but far from a dud. Bump it down a bit more due to the subtitle factor.

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