Being Human (1994)

Elliptical, strange, and quietly mysterious, Being Human is Scottish director Bill Forsyth’s tremendously risky and bizarre conception of a Hollywood movie: a five-part, noncomedic (but hardly unfunny) omnibus film (starring Robin Williams) that ranges from neolithic times to the 1990s. Each Williams persona, from fated caveman to Roman slave to post-yuppie weekend dad, is faced with a web of painful circumstances that precludes convenient answers. Magnificently photographed (you’d think the stone-age sequences would be absurd, but they’re breathtaking), Forsyth’s film favors the director’s odd, charming rhythms and dangling non sequiturs. Most arrestingly, the movie’s central subject is paternal angst, regardless of the sometimes fantastic plotlines. Williams’s Cro-Magnon family man loses his entire family to Vandal pillagers; his 1990s counterpart suffers no less as he spends a weekend with children he barely knows and cannot connect with. Being Human is an offbeat, searching film that dares to never give us what we want from mainstream movies—easy solutions, affirmations, and closure.

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