VOD film review: Time Out of Mind
Ivan Radford | On 15, Mar 2016
Director: Oren Moverman
Cast: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone
Watch Time Out of Mind online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Shelters are like prisons. It’s like rats in a cage.” That’s Richard Gere in Time Out of Mind, Oren Moverman’s moving drama about homelessness. Or, to be more accurate, it’s George, a man who finds himself on the streets when he’s kicked out of the home he’s squatting in. With someone of Gere’s star wattage, it’s often easy to think of them instead of the character they’re playing. In Time Out of Mind, though, the actor disappears completely into the role.
Gere’s George is a stuttering wreck when we first meet him. He goes downhill from there, as he shuffles between hospital waiting rooms and an eventual bed in a shelter. He claims to be waiting for a woman, whenever anyone approaches him, and, at first, it seems like a strategic lie – but you gradually grow to suspect it might be a symptom of a deeper problem, as George is less cagey and more incoherent about his life. But Gere turns what could be a one-note character into someone truly tragic by giving us glimpses of that twinkly-eyed Hollywood magic: in one moment, he’s struggling to recall a social security number in front of a queue of people; the next, he’s talking amiably to an Irish-accented nurse in the hospital. His family is from Ireland too, he smiles at her, before propositioning her for money and promising that he’s clean.
That to and fro between someone normal and someone downtrodden is subtly handled by the movie, which has a sadly believable understanding of what it’s like to sleep rough: as George reels off negative answers to questions about his ID, address, family and friends, Oren Moverman’s script (co-written with Jeffrey Caine) captures the fact that being homeless means having lost something. But as George forms a vague connection with another homeless person (a man who claims to be a jazz musician, played by Ben Vereen), there’s a creeping sense that one of the things he has lost is the desire to connect with other people; he’s as reticent as the screenplay is to offer up answers about his situation.
Ultimately, it’s that ability to echo George’s aimlessness through the film’s form that makes Time Out of Mind so affecting: like our protagonist, the narrative wanders with no real direction or urgency, while the editing leaves us unsure how much time has actually passed between scenes. Moverman, who elicits an equally heartfelt performance from Jena Malone as George’s daughter, has an eye for capturing the uncertainty of George’s existence through the camera. Most of the time, we observe George at a slight distance or through a window, seeing him as a background part of a wider tableau of New York streets. When someone else walks through the back of a building, meanwhile, we discover George cowering in a doorway, almost tucked out of sight at the corner of the frame.
Moverman assembles his loose tale of melancholy with deceptive precision, crafting a mood piece more than a conventional drama, but one that resonates with the unseen melancholy of the people forgotten by the bustling metropolis. “Shelters are like prisons,” argues George, but Time Out of Mind turns the whole city into a jail – one that leaves its inhabitant almost invisible.
Time Out of Mind is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.