There are some films that just hit you, you know, like, right in the core, never quite leaving your mind. Hector – the story of a homeless man returning to London and his past for Christmas – is one of those films.
At a special showing of Hector at a packed Lansdown Hall on the 22nd December - all laid on by the amazing Emily Barker who wrote the film’s beautiful score - we were pulled into the world of Hector and homelessness. Performing a small set of soundtrack songs to the audience before the movie, BAFTA award winning songwriter Emily opened with the subtly emotional title song ‘Anywhere Away’, and boy was it stunning. Emily’s soul searching voice was haunting and, mixed with other, hair-standing-on-end tracks from the film, it set what was to be quite an emotional tone for the film itself when it came on the screen later that evening.
Directed by newbie director/writer Jake Gavin and produced by accomplished pro Stephen Malit, Hector is a British movie which manages to pull off something clever: it works. The photographic backdrop is stark, powerful, and beginning in Scotland, the cinematography reflects the bleak outlook for Hector, the grey, steel blue loss of hope. With Emily’s intro songs complete and movie time beginning, I hunkered down, expecting a film about a homeless man who met people on his journey who reflected the bleak photography: awful, mean, horrible characters. But that didn’t happen, because, of course, real life isn’t like that. There are good people in the world, and what was delightful about the movie was that we saw them, we saw these kind folk help Hector and his homeless friends – a cup of tea for free here, an extra coat there - and it was effortlessly done, subtle.
The only trouble with this was that after a while following Hector on his journey, I did find myself feeling it was a bit slow, found myself wanting something more dramatic to happen – it would have benefited from a bit of oomph. And the ending was a bit flat, rushed maybe, unfinished. But, on chatting to friends about it on the way home, we realised that perhaps that was the joy of Hector as a film – the fact that it was one, very real laid-bare story. No Hollywood drama, no made up grit, but just life, raw, exposed and emotional as we see it. And Peter Mullan in the lead role is sublime, carrying the film even in those achingly quite parts, those moments where you sit and watch the homeless hostel at Christmas, the desperateness mixed in with a singe thread of hope, and you realise you really should do more to help people.
And that, really is the essence of Hector, the feeling it leaves you with when you go – that feeling that we should do more, but also that, people, us lot, us folk out here – we are inherently good. And that, like director Jake Gavin has done in writing this subtle gem of a film, if we simply open our eyes and look at everyday life, we will see it.