Dir: Jake Gavin
It may be surprising that a film about homelessness might be just as uplifting than it is depressing. There will be ample reason to come out of this film feeling grim about the state of the country, where the homeless are shifted to the margins, kept out of sight and mind. Hector, though, never comes across as preachy. It never pushes you into making judgements, of the homeless or of those who help or abuse them. It simply tells one man’s story, a story that feels real because it can happen to anyone, and happens so often.
Hector McAdam (Peter Mullan) has been without a home for over fifteen years. Instead, he lives everywhere, usually kipping near motorway service stations across the country. Hector is self-reliant in many ways, but also graciously accepting of any and all help from the world at large. A kindly café worker will give him a free cup of tea, a trucker will give him a lift. A corner shop owner will run to his rescue when some Glasgow neds beat him up. He has had no contact with his family for over a decade, and recent events have led him to try and contact them again. However, they brush him off. It’s nearly Christmas, and Hector is trying to make it to London, to a shelter where he is known and treated well.
Simply put, Peter Mullan is fantastic as Hector. It’s a tender performance, revealing Hector to be a hopeful and accepting presence, despite his traumatic circumstances. Hector’s past is slowly unveiled over the course of the film, and Mullan absolutely nails every emotional beat. The rest of the cast is strong too, especially Laurie Ventry and Natalie Gavin as Hector’s other homeless pals, and Sarah Solemani as a crisis volunteer.
Writer/director Jake Gavin based Hector’s story on his own experiences volunteering at Crisis for Christmas, and the stories he heard there. There isn’t much flash in the script (there doesn’t need to be) but the visuals are occasionally striking, likely due to Gavin’s background as a photographer. Overall, Hector is a strong debut, filled with the kind of compassion that seems to be in decline these days, in the age of anti-homeless spikes and Katie Hopkins.