We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. Walking down the street and we either pass, ignore or even go completely out of our way to avoid the person up ahead asking for money. Especially in major cities like New York and Chicago, this is an unavoidable, daily occurrence. We assume we know their story and that it always is the same one; which is all we do as a way to justify our actions, or in most cases, inactions. Time Out of Mind doesn’t let you use the film as a form of escapism, but rather as a way to examine this phenomenon. It is a masterpiece of human observation about a group of people that are avoided and ignored on a daily basis.
Director and screenwriter Oren Moverman displays an attention to detail that showcases the meticulousness of his clear vision. That clear vision includes having the view of the main characters obstructed or completely off-center. Most shots have our “main” character in the background or viewed through the window of another room. To match the visual style, the sound design has the dialogue of surrounding conversations and natural metropolitan noises at the forefront over the character’s own dialogue. The intent becomes more and more obvious as the film goes on, especially after you’ve gotten past the potential disorientation of these experimental effects.
The symbolism behind the film is supposed to reflect the way society views and treats its homeless denizens. Moverman wants us to focus on how marginalized these groups of people are by moving the camera’s angle to focus on other people and their surroundings instead of Richard Gere’s character. The majority of the action happens in our peripheries while others happen in our line of sight, but (willfully) beyond our notice. This story of personal struggle and strife is made even more powerful when Moverman forces us to realize how complicit we are in our daily lives for minimizing the value of human beings to nothing but background noise.
This film is not a painless viewing experience, but it was never meant to be. It will make you uncomfortable. It will even make you question if the filmmaker knows what he is doing. Rest assured, Moverman knows what he’s doing and his goal for this film is so you don’t rest assured. This modest production would have just remained a great concept if not for the humbled performance by the talented cast, but more specifically Richard Gere. This film demanded that Gere take a step back and become a passenger in his role, letting the cascade of events wash over him and slowly tear him down. Even some of the bigger named actors, like Steve Buscemi and Kyra Sedgwick, took a background role even though it meant they would be heard more often then they’d be shown on screen. The only character that is ever at the forefront of the screen is Jena Malone’s, but like everything else, there is a reason to that.
In a life where everything has been taken away, and all you have left is the clothes on your back and a fleeting sense of pride, there is still a glimmer of hope. Malone’s character represents that hope in a world that seems uncaring. Time Out of Mind is powerfully compelling because it tempers the real life sense of helplessness with everyday examples of the inherent kindness of humanity. Aside from being a story of redemption and optimism, it is also a wake up call about the prison-like state of our homeless shelters and what we can do to help those going through a rough patch in their life.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)
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