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New Release Review - TIME OUT OF MIND (VOD)

A homeless man attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter.



Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Oren Moverman

Starring: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick



In this unsentimental, intelligent film, we are encouraged to look beyond the screen and consider the thousands and millions of Georges, whose unfortunate circumstances are so carefully and unflinchingly essayed within Time Out of Mind’s delicate cinematography, understated direction and superb performances.



He cares, that Richard Gere. He cares a lot. Most famously he cares about the liberation of Tibet, while in the early noughties he was also critical of the American intervention in Iraq, and recently Gere has been likewise concerned about the spread of AIDS in third world countries; if there’s an underdog out there in the developing world, Richard Gere is doing his best to get their back. And Richard Gere doesn’t just care in the lipservicey Hollywood manner of wearing a wrist band and looking sad in interviews; when Richard Gere cares, he cares properly; writing chapters in books supporting tribal rights, founding trusts here and there, and, in Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind, dedicating his craft to a measured empathy with New York’s homeless. And it’s clear that, while his '80s/'90s contemporaries seem content to ruin their legacy with a, say, Dirty Grandpa, Gere also has a certain amount of care for his reputation and artistry too, with the pensive performance he offers in this absorbing film being one of quietly powerful resonance.
Gere plays George, one of Manhattan’s sixty thousand plus homeless, a destitute soul wandering from street bench to shelter to A&E; his self-worth long since stripped away, his weathered hands gripping a ubiquitous bottle of liquor. Just as George’s life is absent of the accoutrements that we may take for granted (a roof, security, our self-respect), so does Time Out of Mind dispense with familiar cinematic narrative trajectories and tropes, not allowing the audience the comfort of escapism. George essentially drifts from one frustration to the next, a circular and exhausting (but utterly compelling) two hours where any progress that George makes towards attempting to reconnect with his daughter (Jena Malone), or retrieve his social security number, is hard won, or, indeed, non-existent. Time Out of Mind is the opposite of a road movie, that specifically American genre involving vast journeys of distance and character; here George’s life is necessarily insular, cleaving true to the ceaseless, detached nature of the homeless experience. Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski shoots Gere from strange angles; reflected in the grimy sheen of surfaces, separated from us through shop windows; showing us that George is not an integrated part of this world, and forcing us to consider his existence not vicariously, but from a distance that requires thought and consideration.
Furthermore, for a film that is so explicitly ideological, Time Out of Mind never feels crass or patronising: Moverman resists any ‘big moments’, instead weaving a refined and entirely convincing stream of consciousness movie, a slow, inexorable build: like George, we too are stuck on the cold streets, and Moverman offers no easy catharsis as we watch George eke out this defeated existence. Gere is tremendous, his leading man looks (a couple of references are made to his ‘handsomeness’) adding an extra dimension to George’s plight; if it could happen to someone like George - intelligent, good-looking - it could happen to anyone. The terrifying truth about being homeless is that no one sets out to live on the streets, nobody ever had the aspiration to beg at the door of a hostel, or openly rifle through a bin for a half-chewed burger. A couple of defaults on the rent, a broken relationship, a redundancy, and before you know it, Time Out of Mind tells us, you too could be traipsing the streets with George.
It would be disingenuous for Overman to offer a complete closure for George at the end of Time Out of Mind, but nonetheless there is an important denouement that suggests human beings are actually inherently good, that we are kind and co-operative too, but distance, preoccupation and ignorance prevents us from connecting and helping one another. In a rare breakdown, George rants that he is ‘not a person’, that in the eyes of legitimised society, he ‘does not exist’. It is impossible to take in Time Out of Mind without reflecting upon the plight of the homeless; people, human beings, who have simply fallen through the safety net. There is hope, but it relies on us, upon us recognising our human responsibility to one another.
In this unsentimental, intelligent film, we are encouraged to look beyond the screen and consider the thousands and millions of Georges, whose unfortunate circumstances are so carefully and unflinchingly essayed within Time Out of Mind’s delicate cinematography, understated direction and superb performances.  That Richard Gere: he’ll make you care too.

Time Out of Mind is currently available to stream at wearecolony.com/time-out-of-mind

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