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    Time Out of Mind (2015): Movie Review

    "An effective yet boring portrayal of the homeless life.”

    Richard Gere stars as a New York City drifter estranged from his daughter in Time Out of Mind, a cinematic experiment from writer-director Oren Moverman. While exploring the exploits of a homeless man, this admirably patient film also portrays how homelessness can undermine one’s self-worth and social visibility.

    The film opens with George Hammond (Gere) being evicted out of the apartment where he is sleeping.  After a family tragedy involving losing his job, home, insurance and wife, George has lived his life on the streets. Extremely introverted, he moves uncertainly from one shelter to another, obtains free food stamps, participates in various programs and runs into other homeless like the chatty and effervescent Dixon (Ben Vereen).

    George is also desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone), whom he entrusted to his wife’s mother when she was still twelve. Now, she does not want anything to do with her father but with his attempts to retrieve his identifications, George must exert all efforts to win her heart again.

    Built with a sense of compassion, Time Out of Mind is a unique cinematic artwork. It has an interesting and timely material presented in an equally attention-grabbing style of film-making. It takes us into what a homeless life is like and with commendable accuracy, it portrays scenes in the shelters with its blinding fluorescent lights, constant coughing and babbles, early wake-up calls and queuing for much-needed food or shower, as well as moments in the streets with passersby either scornful or oblivious.

    The movie deals with its subject matter more personal than anything else. With its lead figure, we see how homelessness affects how he values himself and how it erodes his self-esteem. George has become invisible, even to his only daughter. Without IDs, Social Security card, or any government issued documentation, he may as well be nameless. Without job, he doubts whether he has contributed anything to the society. And without any friends or family, he has become an outsider, alone in a heavily-populated metropolis.

    The movie is also shot in a way that rhymes with George’s non-existential disposition. Shot with stationary long lenses, the main character is very distant and observational, signifying the disconnection between him, a disadvantaged entity, and the general public. Oftentimes, he is also framed by a door or window jambs, or through panes of glass and other obstructions, implying how his presence is small, if not unfelt, in a bustling world. Such photographic perspective is ingenious and laudable.

    However, the film suffers from a very thin plot. As it is much concerned with portraying a homeless life than with the central figure’s story, its narrative is very simplistic without any twists and turns. With George’s introversion and limited memory, there is nothing much to learn about his character. In effect, it lacks any sense of drama as there is nothing to hold on to. The movie is also sluggishly paced and lacks any momentum that will drive impatient viewers up to its heart-warming ending.

    Hands down to Gere as he carries the two-hour film with ease and grace. Despite his scruffy and beat-up look, he is still a handsome gentleman who effectively channels the hopelessness and sad gravity of George. His performance is solid all throughout and his concluding scene with Malone is especially affecting and tear-jerking. Vereen is delightful as ever as the bubbly chatter Dixon who injects light doses of fun and coolness. 

    Time Out of Mind is a well-meaning feature about the homeless. It has pure intentions, masterfully executed in picture-book-like frames. It may be distinctive but its minimal plot and lack of urgency make the film underwhelming and humdrum. 

    Production companies: Gere Productions, Blackbird Productions
    Cast: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Yul Vazquez, Jeremy Strong, Michael Kenneth Williams, Steve Buscemi, Coleman Domingo, Geraldine Hughes 
    Director-screenwriter: Oren Moverman
    Producers: Richard Gere, Lawrence Inglee, Caroline Kaplan, Edward Wilson, Miranda Bailey, Bill Pohlad 
    Executive producersL Mohammed Al Turki, Zak Tucker, Amanda Marshall, Eva Maria Daniels
    Director of photography: Bobby Bukowski 
    Production designer: Kelly McGehee
    Costume designer: Catherine George 
    Editor: Alex Hall



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