Human Capital

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Human Capital Movie Poster Image
Uneven but engaging drama has language, sex, drinking.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

As title suggests, the movie wants to address idea of humans' value -- not only in terms of wealth, but also in sense of what they contribute. Yet while it shows how unhappy both rich and poor people can be, it doesn't really have much else to say. It does warn against risky investments, also frowns on hit-and-run accidents.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the characters are complex and three-dimensional, but none are really role models. They're largely troubled, often do unwise things.

Violence

Character lies on the floor, injured and bloody. Upsetting accident in which a car fatally hits a bicyclist; tiny amount of blood shown. A character rages, beating himself in the face, cutting himself above the eye. A character has scars on his wrist. Some violent dialogue (e.g., "I'll kill you").

Sex

A teen couple initiates sex; naked breast shown. A married woman initiates sex with another man (no nudity; they're shown lying in bed together afterward). Passionate kissing. Sex-related dialogue, mention of extramarital affairs.

Language

Strong language includes multiple uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "hell," "slut," and "goddamn," plus uses of "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen extremely drunk after a party. Teens smoke pot and guzzle from wine bottle. Dialogue about how a teen used to be a drug dealer, mention of "hash." An adult shares beers with teens. Social drinking/wine with dinner. Smoking shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Human Capital is a drama about several characters connected to a hit-and-run accident. There are a few violent scenes: A character lies on the floor covered in blood, an upsetting accident is shown (with a bicyclist fatally hit), characters shout/rage, etc. Teens initiate sex (partial nudity), a married woman initiates sex with another man (they're shown lying in bed afterward), and there's lots of kissing. Language is strong, with frequent use of "f--k" and more. A teen gets extremely drunk, teens smoke pot, and there's a reference to a teen being a former drug dealer. Some other smoking and drinking is shown, too. The movie is heavy going, and it doesn't reach the ultimate point that it seems to be trying for, but it's well-acted and has an emotional impact.

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What's the story?

In HUMAN CAPITAL, a bicyclist is struck and fatally wounded on a dark road by a hit-and-run driver. The events leading up to that night are then told from three different points of view. Struggling real estate agent Drew (Liev Schreiber) learns that his second wife (Betty Gabriel) is pregnant. He drops off his teen daughter, Shannon (Maya Hawke), at the sprawling mansion where her boyfriend, Jamie (Fred Hechinger), lives. There, Drew meets Jamie's father, successful venture capitalist Quint Manning (Peter Sarsgaard). Drew asks Quint whether he can invest in an upcoming opportunity, but in order to raise the necessary $300,000, he borrows and lies. Meanwhile, Quint's wife, Carrie (Marisa Tomei), has fallen in love with an old theater and wants to fix it up, but she learns that their family's finances are in serious trouble. Finally, Shannon and Jamie secretly break up, and she falls for the damaged, withdrawn Ian (Alex Wolff).

Is it any good?

Based on a 2004 novel by Stephen Amidon, this multi-thread drama is intricately designed and boldly acted, though its form may be a little outsized compared to its actual content. Adapted by Oscar nominee Oren Moverman (The Messenger) and directed by Marc Meyers, Human Capital (which is also a remake of a 2013 Italian movie) adopts a serious tone, rather than building any kind of suspenseful whodunit from the bicyclist's death. But since it has other interesting stories to tell, this approach works fairly well.

The parts about Drew's financial woes and Shannon's blooming romance have strong emotional beats, but the segment focusing on Carrie's attempts to do something great with the old theater seem stretched too thin, a complicated means to a not-very-interesting end. And, ultimately, the theme of "human capital" -- the satirical question of what human beings in this story are actually worth -- doesn't offer much sting. Instead, it feels more like a grim resignation. But the strong, memorable parts of Human Capital outweigh those that don't work well, and it's worth seeing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Human Capital depicts sex. What values are imparted?

  • How are teen drinking and drug use depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • How did the movie's violence affect you? How much is shown? How strong was it?

  • What does the phrase "human capital" mean, and what does the movie seem to be saying about it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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