Birthrates, fertility, world population—these aren’t the usual fodder for multiplex thrillers. But filmmaker Jessica Yu manages a trick of arithmetic. Out of seven billion, she mines three compelling stories, finding high drama in topics seemingly more suited to a PowerPoint presentation. In China, where strict family planning has birthed a generation of leftover, partnerless men, Yu follows one such “lonely emperor.” It’s the stuff of romantic-comedy, a hapless quest of love on a deadline that gives way to somethings deeper: loneliness, anxiety, and the sometimes-stifling ways of a family’s affection. When Yu turns to a Canadian pro-life crusader, the tone sways from earnest to biting, only to occasionally swing back again. And in Uganda, Yu’s tale of abandoned children is one of heroism in the looming shadow of tragedy. Amid all the globe-hopping, Yu’s abiding idea emerges: If only we cast off the numbers, we might finally see the people—breathing, fearing, hoping people—living always within them.