This review was previously published in The National newspaper.
SOMETHING of a passion project for its big name star, Time Out of Mind sees Richard Gere playing George, a homeless alcoholic man who leads a wandering life on the streets of New York City. Estranged from his family and with no property or money to his name, we follow him as he does what he can to survive, happening across various helpful and not so helpful people along the way.
There’s not really much more to the film plot-wise than that. But that’s not what it’s interested in, instead seeking to give the most authentic view of homeless life possible. It’s a topic often painted in frustrating broad strokes on screen and to the film’s credit, it never feels simplistic in the way it portrays that isolating, uncertain and often humiliating way of life.
Director Oren Moverman (The Messenger, Rampart) takes an admirably ambitious approach, with many scenes shot through heavily reflective windows and down from rooftops and with us only being able to hear fragments of conversation going on around but unrelated to George in order to create a believable peripheral soundscape. That style can sometimes make things feel a little too self-conscious but it nonetheless keeps things visually interesting as a way to exemplify the alienating nature of this fringe way of life.
This is a very different role than we’ve seen Gere in before. As well as meeting and spending time with real people in this situation, the actor reportedly begged for change on the streets with passers-by never realising who he was. That uncompromising approach does lend the film an air of authenticity. Gere gives an admirably committed and believably haggard performance, giving depth and feeling to the character even when the screenplay isn’t always there to back that up.
The only real subplot going on is George wanting to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Jenna Malone) but this feels frustratingly underdeveloped with the script not equipped enough to really handle the emotional weight that it should bring.
Time Out of Mind is a lost soul of a film, adrift and wandering, sometimes with purpose and sometimes not. It’s strangely quite emotionally distant, keeping its audience at arm’s length a lot of the time with a plot that can be quite plodding in nature. But however lacking it may be as an emotional rollercoaster, it’s also an interesting, intriguing and admirably sincere portrait of a man in between and a world that to most people is invisible in plain sight.