Time out of Mind 

 

Half

 

 

An uncompromising look at the lives of the homeless set in New York City, honourable but hardgoing.

 


Richard Gere nurtured this project for years and just how important it was to him is evidenced by the credits (this is, indeed, A Gere Productions film). The actor’s humanitarian commitments fuelled the idea of telling the story of one man, George Hammond, adrift in the world of the homeless in New York. Gere takes this unglamorous role himself and his good intentions are unmistakable, but making this kind of film work is no easy business and, sadly, Time out of Mind falls short in more ways than one. 

 

Time out of Mind

 

As it happens only last December a British film, Hector (q.v.), dealt with the theme of homelessness and demonstrated adroitly how to present a personal story that didn’t distract from the social comment but offered an engaging central character. It thus ensured that the tale was truthful without being too drab to please. In contrast Time out of Mind stretches slowly and episodically over some two hours. In portraying George’s situation as he seeks overnight accommodation in shelters it does touch on two significant relationships but it largely fails to find the dramatic spark in either of them.

The first of these is George’s association with another homeless man, the black Dixon (Ben Vereen), whose constant talk initially antagonises George but still leads to a bond born of their common plight. The other is George’s relationship with his daughter (Jena Malone), also in New York but distant in her attitude for reasons that we eventually discover. A late scene between them hovering on the brink of reconciliation is the film’s best sequence and, even if Gere is fully committed to his role, it is Malone who drives this episode.

The New York setting reminds one of the classic documentary On the Bowery (1956) which portrayed life on Skid Row, a work that was rough, raw and real. It also lasted 65 minutes as opposed to this film’s 117 (Hector came in at 87 minutes). Furthermore, the ciné vérité style of On the Bowery could not be further from the arty approach adopted here by director Oren Moverman. The sound and the look may both be intended to reflect George’s position as a loner, albeit one in a crowd. Thus the film features frequent background voices (a reminder of other lives often unaccompanied by shots of the people). The visual style involves many scenes being shot through glass, while the ’Scope frame is subjected to blocked off areas and self-conscious splashes of colour. The unintended effect of all this is to distance us and, although Time out of Mind successfully avoids sentimentality, it quite lacks the appealing qualities to be found in Hector.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

  

Cast: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeremy Strong, Yul Vazquez, Michael Kenneth Williams, Steve Buscemi, Brian d’Arcy James, Geraldine Hughes, Colman Domingo.

 

Dir Oren Moverman, Pro Richard Gere, Lawrence Inglee, Caroline Kaplan and others, Screenplay Moverman from a story by Jeffrey Caine and himself, Ph Bobby Bukowski, Pro Des Kelly McGehee, Ed Alex Hall, Costumes Catherine George.

 

A Gere Productions film/A Blackbird production/Cold Iron Pictures/River Road Entertainment etc-Altitude Film Entertainment.
121 mins. USA. 2014. Rel: 4 March 2016. Cert.  15.