Being homeless is no joke. It’s a horrible, scary state of affairs. So it’s nice to find that Hector, a film in which the titular character (played by Peter Mullan) is himself homeless, isn’t without moments of humour. It’s not a laugh a minute, but the film never goes all the way into any real darkness.

We first meet Hector at the start of a good day. He gets a cup of tea and some biscuits before joining a couple of friends in the same accommodation-challenged situation. And then it’s time to collect his pension and get on with the rest of his day, which involves a hospital appointment before a long spell of hitch-hiking. He is hoping to visit some family members on his way down to a shelter that he visits every Christmas. The fact that his family haven’t seen or heard from him in over 15 years, however, means that he may not receive a very warm welcome.

Featuring an unsurprisingly great performance from Mullan, Hector also boasts a very solid supporting cast. Natalie Gavin plays Hazel, a young girl who already seems like a bit of a homeless veteran, Keith Allen is yet another of the annual shelter visitors, Ewan Stewart and Gina McKee are the relatives that Hector wants to get back in touch with, and Sarah Solemani is a welcome, warm presence as the main worker at the shelter who sets out to give everyone some food, a bed, and some good cheer, if only for a few days.

Writer-director Jake Gavin does a very good job here of showing what homelessness can be like on a typical day to day basis. Seeing the morning routine that Hector has, for example, when he has access to bathroom facilities. Or watching him trek to collect his pension and a little bit of shopping. It’s often difficult to imagine someone homeless having any kind of normal life at all, but this shows that people who are struggling can, and often do, make every effort to give themselves a number of ways in which they can continue feeling human, even as so many people passing them by may seem to have already written them off from society.

It’s a shame that the third act trots out a few of the cliches, although there’s an argument to be made that the cliches crop up because they’re so often true, but this is generally outweighed by the way Gavin refuses to depict his central subject, or even the others around him in the same boat, as being without hope or resources. It doesn’t exactly make the homeless life look easy, but it does show a slightly different side to things.

Hector is screening at EIFF 2015 on 18th and 20th June.


Film Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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