Richard Gere is the human embodiment of loneliness in this quiet but captivating homelessness drama.
Time Out of Mind is the complete antithesis of what one expects an American film about homelessness to be. It is not a clichéd melodrama with a moaning, tormented protagonist battling the elements as he screams and injects his way through the snowy streets. Nor is it a feel-good broad comedy about a “lost soul” finding love after they lose everything. Oh no. Time Out of Mind is quiet, surprising and tough from start to finish, with- of all people- Richard Gere giving an underplayed but powerful central performance.
Its intention to distance the audience from the events displayed on screen is the film’s strongest asset in being engaging and moving. Every meeting and conversation is shot from a distance, through a pane of glass or a gap in a staircase. Important supporting characters, played often by well-known actors (Steve Buscemi, Jena Malone and Michael Kenneth Williams appear), are never shown close-up, and are shot from behind as Gere’s face is consistently the point of focus. His character isn’t very complex, he isn’t very interesting and he barely changes throughout the film. The main source of humour is the refusal of more animated figures to just leave him alone. Other than the revelations of his piano talent and relationship with an estranged daughter (the single unfortunately obvious aspect of the storytelling), there are no twists in the tale. It’s a simple, everyday story, but Rampart director Oren Moverman presents it in such a unique and beautiful way, it becomes an utterly captivating portrayal of loneliness and hopelessness. Moverman and Gere’s work, as well as that of cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, shouldn’t be ignored merely because Time Out of Mind is as small as its subject requires. It’s exceptional.