The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HOARD | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - HOARD

Hoard review
A teen who grew up with a hoarder mother regresses to her messy ways upon the arrival of her foster mother's former charge.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Luna Carmoon

Starring: Saura Lightfoot Leon, Joseph Quinn, Hayley Squires, Lily-Beau Leach, Samantha Spiro

Hoard poster

British social realist movies are known for their messy protagonists, but they don't come much messier than Maria, the focus of writer/director Luna Carmoon's confrontational debut Hoard. As the title suggests, we're plunged into the curious psychology of the hoarder, a once obscure neurosis that now fuels many a mean-spirited reality show in which Feng Shui experts and neatness buffs tut tut at the piles of crap in the homes of hoarders before cleaning them out while clad in Hazmat outfits. Such shows end with the hoarder expressing their gratitude and vowing not to slip back into their ways, but such upbeat climaxes are usually followed by some solemn text explaining how they succumbed to their compulsion within weeks of filming.

Maria, whom we initially meet as a seven-year-old in the South East London of 1984 (played by Lily-Beau Leach), lives with her hoarder mother Cynthia (Hayley Squires) in a house filled with so much garbage that Maria struggles to get in the front door when she gets home from school. Too young to understand that her mother is suffering from severe mental health issues, Maria embraces their life of rummaging through skips and finding treasure in others' trash. She doesn't even complain when her mother presents her with bizarre gifts, like a jar filled with chalk, or when she finds decaying rats buried under rubbish in the living room.

Hoard review

In similar fashion to another recent South London drama, Charlotte Regan's Scrapper, Maria's view of her world is often rendered with a magic realist touch. She's a curious child, obsessed with the tactile nature of objects, always running her hands across every thing she comes across and sticking her arms through any gaping opening she can find.

When the film jumps forward to 1994 we find Maria, now a gangly school leaver played by Saura Lightfoot Leon, living with her foster mother Michelle (Samantha Spiro), having inevitably been taken from Cynthia 10 years earlier. Maria is a clever young woman, always quick with a witty retort, but she's directionless, with seemingly no desire to attend college or take a job. When her rebellious best friend Laraib (Deba Hekmat) is sent away by her strict Kurdish father to keep her out of trouble, Maria finds a gap in her life. That gap is soon filled by the arrival of Michael (Joseph Quinn), a handsome man in his late twenties who was once taken in himself by Michelle. Awaiting a council house for himself and his pregnant fiancee, Michael needs a place to stay for a few weeks.

Hoard review

Red flags are immediately raised when Michael treats Maria from the off as though she were his own sister, holding conversations with her as she squats on the toilet and engaging in physical games that will soon boil over into expressions of sexual longing. Michael and Maria find in one another a reminder of the unstructured lives they were taken from as children. In each other's company they're like two domesticated house cats who suddenly regress to a feral state. Michael's job as a binman means he comes home from work stinking, but while everyone else covers their nose, Maria revels in his putrid stench, a sensual reminder of her childhood. Soon Maria is taking Michael on scavenging runs, filling her bedroom with piles of trash and hiding rubbish around the rest of the home.

Carmoon has said the film is inspired by her hoarder grandmother, whom we see in home movie footage over the closing credits (Squires' resemblance is remarkable). Her film is so specific in how it draws its unique world that it could only have come from someone familiar with the details she's presenting. Carmoon refuses to hold the viewer's hand, never commenting on Maria's neurosis, merely presenting it in all its filthy squalor. The same goes for her relationship with the older Michael. Rather than wagging a knowing adult finger, Carmoon emphasises Maria's excitement. We can be thankful that smell-o-vision never caught on, as Hoard would no doubt be impossible to endure. There's something oddly specific to a British '80s childhood about wallowing in messiness. Children's game shows of the era always seemed to involve people getting covered in all sorts of slime and ooze, and this is echoed in the kinky games played by Maria and Michael, who trade bodily fluids with wild abandon.

Hoard review

At times however Carmoon succumbs to the temptations of a first time filmmaker, and not everything works. As with Scrapper, the magic realist asides distract from the grittiness of the drama rather than complement it. The voiceover from Maria which bookends the film is unnaturally flowery. Maria's obsession with the arthouse favourite The Tin Drum is similarly incongruous. But there's a ton of evidence here to suggest Carmoon is an exciting talent, as indeed are her two young leads. Hoard is a movie that teems with life, in all its messiness.

Hoard is in UK/ROI cinemas from May 17th.

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