Hector is the debut feature film by writer/director Jake Gavin and what a tour de force it is. A film that is pertinent and poignant especially at Christmas – but for the Grace Go I. Despite being homeless Hector tries to live with dignity and grace. A film is supposed to make you think and good art is not just something to admire and absorb but should stir or indeed activate something in the viewer to take action. Hector is such a film.
Hector (Peter Mullan) was in the Merchant Navy an done day in his own words: “fell out with life, woke up one morning and fucked off.” Maybe not the most eloquently expressed but certainly succinctly sums up how a man who still collects his pension is now on the streets. The film follows Hector, Hazel and Dougie as they make their annual journey from Scotland to the Christmas Shelter in London for 3 days of shelter, food and respite from their lives on the street.
What Jake Gavin does so wonderfully is not to give into the schmaltz. Some of the dots are joined up and there are surprising twists but there is enough space for the audience to fill in the blanks. It’s not earnest or trying to get you on side, actually, it is as funny as it is bleak and desolate. The characters are fully formed and whilst the film is carried for the most part by Peter Mullan’s powerful performance: he manages to perfectly convey Hector’s dignity, pride with a combination of humour and stoicism. He is ably supported by Keith Allen, Gina McKee and Stephen Tompkinson.
Hector is a timely reminder of the precarious nature of life and how easily everything can be lost in a moment: it is easy to fall out with life. Also, little acts of kindness can go a long way. You may not have the chance to donate your time assisting at a shelter but maybe contact those friends who are slightly vulnerable and ensure they are ok.
British independent cinema, in 2015, especially those focused on the family and couples have excelled: 45 years, The Incident, Iona and now Hector. I only hope 2016 will be an equally spectacular year.
Hector took the Edinburgh International Film Festival Hector by storm and opened in UK cinemas on 11 December.
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