“Fully Realized Humans” Film Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

Fully Realized Humans Film

Jess Weixler (Jackie), Joshua Leonard (Elliot) in Fully Realized Humans (c) Gravitas Ventures

There may never be ‘the perfect time’ to have a baby. I will always remember sitting with a co-worker explaining that my husband and I ‘weren’t ready yet’ to have children, when she pointed out that we might not actually feel ready—like, ever. That insight struck like a lightning bolt. Because, really, if you overthink it, you might analyze yourself right out of trying to have a baby at all—especially if you have concerns that you might perpetuate some family dysfunction along the way: the fear that you might become your own parents in parenting your child. Now, this fear might not resonate with everyone, but I would hazard a guess that it resonates with enough people that the upcoming film, “Fully Realized Humans” will ring true for many.

Indie film favorites: Jess Weixler, (The Lie, Teeth) who was pregnant in real-life during filming and playing Jackie, and Joshua Leonard (The Lie, The Blair Witch Project) playing her husband Elliot, are sitting through their uncomfortable baby shower (thrown by their good friends). Jackie is eight-months-pregnant with their first child, and their friends cannot stop talking about how “the baby will dictate your life”, and how “you’re going to become your parents”, and “you don’t get to be yourself anymore—because you are so tired.” (My personal favorite.)

Afterwards, all of these ‘warnings’ bubble to the surface in Jackie’s “DEFCON 3” meltdown over an innocent oversight: Elliot has accidentally purchased some extra hummus, when he didn’t realize they already had plenty. Regarding ‘the hummus situation’ Elliot says, “I was just trying to do a nice thing.” To which Jackie replies: “I was just asking you to do an aware thing.” (Weixler’s delivery and comedic timing is perfect here as elsewhere.)

Hormones can be blamed for Jackie’s outburst, perhaps, but there are other things brewing. We learn that Jackie’s father is addicted to prescription meds, and she has given him money (once again), much to Elliot’s dismay–and anger. Elliot’s anger issues stem from his childhood: his father (Tom Bower) would threaten to punch him, fist hovering in the air, regularly. Elliot’s mother (Beth Grant) always remained passive—choosing to buffer emotions with excessive cleaning.

To try to prevent their family dysfunction from carrying through to the next generation, Jackie and Elliot set themselves a challenge: They will become “Fully Realized Humans” in the remaining month before the baby arrives. Now, you might think, what is a “fully realized human”? Someone who goes out and performs acts of charity? Someone who searches deep within to fulfill his/her soul’s purpose? Not by a long shot here. Jackie and Elliot decide to take the path least traveled and try to rid themselves of their demons by going on a madcap odyssey making themselves as uncomfortable as they can, to see what needs to be addressed. This, of course, may seem contrived, but makes for a better film, and things get messy (to say the least).

Because, if you are Jackie and Elliot, swimming in a sea of hummus and self-doubt, your path to ‘fully realized human’ comes in the form of a strange list of challenges that include jumping off a cliff or out of a plane, swimming with sharks, diving into a mosh pit, etc. When they realize they cannot do these things at eight months pregnant, the things they attempt instead are bizarre, although attempted with sincerity, and a large dose of hilarity.

They start with a (fairly explicit) sex act that Jackie had wanted to try to “empower herself” which brings up Elliot’s emotional baggage surrounding his masculinity. (There is humor throughout: “Stop” is Elliot’s “safe word”.) If that scene is a bit outrageous*, stay with the film, there is an abundance of charm from these actors, and you will forgive them any indiscretion. (Including the next scene where Elliot decides he needs to have a close friend punch him in the face to work through his anger issues.) *Note: This is not a film to watch with children in the room.

After engaging in these ‘freeing activities’: punching, stealing, graffiti, howling at the moon, the pair are immensely proud of their accomplishments. The only downside: their antics have consequences, especially with regard to their doula (Erica Chidi Cohen). And if that isn’t challenge enough, the tone changes as Jackie and Elliot decide in the end to confront their respective parents.

This is my first Weixler/Leonard film, but it won’t be my last (and hopefully there will be many more in the future). The chemistry from this acting/writing duo is off-the-charts. (I convinced myself the two were married in real life…. They are not.) The humor can be dark but the charm of these two actors ensures things don’t get overly dark. Through everything you will find yourself cheering them on as they try to navigate the emotional terrain of impending parenthood. In the end, this is the quintessential independent film: quirky, edgy, and fun.

Fully Realized Humans: Starring and Written by Joshua Leonard & Jess WeixlerFully Realized Humans Film

Additional Cast: Beth Grant, Tom Bower, Janizca Bravo & Jennifer Lafleur

Running time: 76 minutes.

“Fully Realized Humans” opens July 30th via Indie Film Specialist: Gravitas Ventures.

Winner of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (2021); an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival (2020); an official selection of the Woodstock Film Festival (2020).

Joshua Leonard: Filmmaker, writer, and actor, Joshua Leonard has made an indelible mark on independent cinema. Acting roles include The Blair Witch Project, Humpday, Higher Ground, Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, and more. Leonard has directed award-winning films: The Youth in US (Sundance 2005), Beautiful Losers (SXSW 2008), and The Lie (Sundance 2011).

Jess Weixler: Filmmaker, writer, and actor, Jess Weixler is a favorite on the independent film scene. Weixler starred in The Lie with Joshua Leonard. Her other acting roles include Teeth (winner of the Special Jury Prize for Acting, Sundance 2007) and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them & Her/Him (Cannes 2014). She took on the role of writer/director in Apartment Troubles (Los Angeles Film Festival 2014), a feature she co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in.





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