After reminding us all he exists last year with a rather confused performance in the underwhelming Marigold Hotel sequel, Richard Gere has had something of a comeback this year. And with this comeback, he brought us two of his finest performances yet. And boy, did we have to wait for them. We had the criminally underrated The Benefactor which began shooting at the end of 2013, and this – Time Out Of Mind – which shot through 2014. Both films only reached us in the UK this year.
Out now on DVD, Time Out Of Mind is an interesting film right from the DVD case. ‘Supporting homelessness charities’; the cover states, followed by two charity logos. Unusual for a film with a big-name star, the UK DVD release of Time Out Of Mind is indeed a charity release. Why? Because this film is one of the most real and honest portrayals of homelessness in the history of cinema. There’s no Hollywood-ising here, this film certainly shows the harsh realities of big-city life. Richard Gere plays George, an ageing homeless man attempting to repair the relationship with his estranged daughter. I know what you’re thinking, it sounds like something you’ve seen a thousand times before. An old, broken man trying to right his wrongs with his family – hardly a unique or original premise. But Time Out Of Mind’s plot is fairly inconsequential.
Writer-director Oren Moverman, one of indie cinema’s finest talents, brings us another expertly crafted piece of work here. His direction is distant, but in an intentional and highly effective way. The majority of shots feel like they’re captured with hidden cameras, with our subjects distant and obscured through windows, stairways, doorways and from across the street. And on top of that, the sound design is busy – the hustle and bustle of the city often overpowers the hushed dialogue from our hero. Clearly, this is an attempt to show the city’s disregard of homeless existence – making the film, quite rightly, difficult to watch. The homeless characters are shown as silent individuals, who we as a viewer sneak a look at through windows out of some morbid curiosity. In shooting this film on-location, many people mistook Gere for a homeless man - and Gere himself said he was hurt by how many people couldn’t look at him, or would instantly look away. But funnily enough, some kinder passers-by handed Gere scraps of food or loose change – blissfully unaware they’re giving bits of leftover pizza to a Hollywood star.
But this distant style has been very polarising with audiences and critics. When Time Out Of Mind screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, more than 20 attendees walked out. Just looking at the reviews further emphasises this point – while some say the film is ‘long-winded’, ‘dull’ and ‘without direction’, others say it is ‘a remarkable achievement in the history of cinema’. Maybe it’s the style and delivery, or maybe it is just the socially conscious premise that people can’t handle. After all, film is supposed to be escapism. But we must never ignore the social issues in front of us.
Time Out Of Mind is a very solid piece of work. Yes, it requires a lot of patience and yes, it is very slow. There’s no big moment, nor does it end with a bang. This is just a quiet, poignant character study and a reminder that homelessness is still a big issue in our streets. If nothing else, maybe it’ll make some of you look at the homeless a little different. Maybe now you’ll find a couple of quid to throw into their hat. Or maybe you’ll do more. We can only hope that it won’t be an issue for much longer but while it still is, at least Hollywood aren’t turning a blind eye to it. And maybe if we don’t turn a blind eye to it either, we can all fix it together.
Time Out Of Mind is a powerful and understated little film, and a remarkable study of homelessness. 4/5.
Time Out Of Mind at CeX
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