Bleak, depressing, and melancholy are certainly not three qualities that equate to a commercially successful film. However, films aren’t always made for the commercial appeal, sometimes they are crafted solely for societal impact. Time out of Mind chronicles a homeless man’s journey through the streets of New York. It’s a very tough movie to sit through, but features a cast that is worth watching.
George (Richard Gere) roams the streets looking for a place to sleep and perhaps enough change so he can have a meal or, more likely, a bottle of booze. George once had a job, a wife, a child, and a home, and all that disappeared as he went into a downward spiral of depression?. He is accepted at a men’s shelter and due to his friendship with Dixon (Ben Vereen), he learns to navigate the red tape and the routine. He attempts to reconnect with his daughter Maggie (Jenna Malone), but what went down when her mom passed away left some deep wounds.
Director Oren Moverman (The Messanger) makes a couple brilliant choices in the editing room that help elevate the overall quality of the picture. By piping in the ambient noise from the streets below, it creates a chilling atmosphere that must be all-too-common for anyone living on the streets. Moverman consciously keeps his shots at a distance so the audience can bear witness to the utter degradation that comes with the life. More importantly, he didn’t shy away from showing the awfulness of humanity towards the homeless. It’s hard to not get the impression that Moverman is attempting to give us all a wakeup call as we continue to ignore the plight of the homeless.
Gere dominates the film with a deep, uncompromising performance. He hasn’t been this raw in a performance since Mr. Jones (1993) where he played a manic depressive. Gere is unrecognizable in this film. On the screen he is a man whose has had his soul ripped to shreds by the weight of societal pressures. He seems to be haunted by the notion that he’s become nothing more than a listless member of society … a vagabond … or as he stated, “a nobody.” However, the power in his performance doesn’t come from what is said on screen but from what isn’t. There are long, silent portions of the film, the only sound the ambient noise Manhattan. Gere is just lifeless, cold, and staggering from street corner to street corner. He commits to the role of George in a way that he’s never committed to any role and the result is a performance that is so authentic and heart breaking, it transcends everything Gere has done in his career.
It is often said that art imitates life, and the artistry of Time out of Mind is that it encapsulates a part of society (our life) that is often discarded.