A lot is happening in Human Capital, a new film directed by Marc Meyers.
Initially an Italian film by Paolo Virzi loosely based on the 2004 novel from Stephen Amidon, Human Capital centers on two families brought together by the fleeting relationship between their teenagers.
Liev Schrieber plays Drew, a struggling real estate agent, husband, and father whose brief history suggests he has delusions of grandeur and get-rich-quick schemes.
Depending on the market, real estate can be that, but Drew chose real estate because his father instilled in him to do something society deems necessary for his life's work.
Drew chose real estate over coffins, he jokes.
But Drew has a secret that comes to light when he drives his daughter, Shannon (Maya Hawke) to visit her boyfriend, Jamie (Fred Hechinger), the son of a well-to-do hedge fund manager, Quint, and his wife, Carrie, played by Peter Sarsgaard and Marisa Tomei.
It's an odd introduction to Drew when he expresses interest in going inside of the home Shannon is visiting that gets even odder when he chooses to stomp around the property and ingratiate himself to the family in subtle but effective ways.
The former collegiate tennis player suddenly finds himself a part of the in-crowd, a financial crowd that he, as a former gambler, has no place being.
Interestingly, the relationship between Drew and Quint initially shows dramatic promise, but other than some cursory interaction between the two, it's apparent from the onset that the two will never be friends and that Drew's financial shuffle to receive a low buy-in offer for the hot hedge fund will be a mistake.
I'm sure there is an essay of sorts about economic disparity, but that pales in comparison to the larger story, pinning down who among them was driving the vehicle that committed a hit-and-run while driving Quint and Carrie's SUV.
It's that story that reveals the fragility of the families involved as the focus eventually shifts to their children.
Focally, Human Capital is present with only rare insight into the families and other characters before we first encounter them, and that only comes by way of offhanded comments in casual conversation.
Since most casual encounters in life follow that same pattern, it's not a bad choice, but it is probably a little less exciting than a more refined approach.
It's the volatility of youth, and especially young love, that drives the heart of the film. Hawke's Shannon is an enigmatic and confident young woman who casts a spell on young men and viewers, easily capturing the heart of the tale.
She's at that point in life when everything is up in the air, and taking a big swing has an irresistible allure. Meeting a troubled young man named Ian (Alex Wolff) outside of her stepmother's office establishes another thread that ultimately ties everyone together in a satisfying way.
Betty Gabriel is a psychologist named Ronnie, and she's walking on cloud nine after receiving joyous news when her stepdaughter Shannon meets Ian, and she barely registers the instant connection between the two.
But the unexpected meeting with Ian has a lasting effect on Shannon and rocks her works in the way only instant infatuation can affect a young woman burgeoning on adulthood.
Despite their financial differences, the families of Human Capital are equally challenged with parenting issues, and interpersonal relationships with highs and lows that prove families all suffer and celebrate equally regardless of their financial circumstances.
The cast is impressive and capable of infusing even the more detached moments with a surprising amount of humanity, and director Marc Meyers allows the actors to own their characters quieter moments making them more precious.
For those used to watching Shreiber as the confident and reckless Ray Donovan, this role will is a departure. Drew borders on pathetic, and his relationships with his daughter and wife suffer as he yearns to be someone he isn't.
Sarsgaard's character is rather one-note, but it's not uncommon among hedge fund managers in entertainment. When he gets the opportunity, Sarsgaard allows Quint to breathe and feel and offers the impression that he's more like Drew than he lets on.
Tomei's Carrie is the most relatable adult on hand, and Tomei suits the unsatisfied wife and caring mother searching for a slice of happiness in a life mostly lived at the whims of others.
Unfortunately, Gabriel doesn't get a lot of material to make Ronnie stand out, but she has a winsome way about her that makes more of the character than she gets to portray.
It's Shannon who commands attention and much of that is due to the subtleties of Hawke's performance. She's magical as a young woman balancing her convictions and her heart.
Wolff has a remarkable emotional range tthat elevates his secondary character in the film, Ian, and it's when Hawke and Wolff (which sounds crazy looking at it like that) are on screen together that the movie finds its foothold.
Despite the early suggestion that the film will focus on the fathers and their disparities and even the title of the film, which puts a price on human life, that angle doesn't compare to what Hawke and Wolff present together whether intentional or not.
As the film unfolds and the mystery ramps up, it's not too difficult to guess how it might end, but the actual ending and the meaning behind it isn't a no-brainer.
It's a reminder that beauty can be found in even the most trying circumstances when the world around you is falling apart, and that's not a bad way to spend some of your time while our existence battles a medical crisis the likes of which we've not seen in several lifetimes.
Human Capital is available to rent and buy on-demand today, Friday, March 20, 2020, across many platforms.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.