With Hector, director Jake Gavin has created a film about homelessness which contains a fair amount of misery, but which is not itself miserable. Peter Mullan stars as Hector, who lives on the motorways of northern England with a couple of homeless companions. He’s cut off, and his health is deteriorating, but he endures.
The reasons behind Hector’s itinerant existence are left for the final third of the film; until then, we follow him on a weather-beaten journey to London. We meet his companions, and get glimpses of his long-lost family life.
Mullan carries the film in an understated sort of way, without the gruffness often associated with his performances. The role only requires him to really stretch in the final third, but it’s a strong turn nonetheless. Credit should go to the costume and location managers, too, because the film feels convincing as a portrayal of a homeless life. Gavin keeps his direction mostly minimal; the film begins with a nice overhead tracking shot detailing the movements of people outside a motorway service station, but the rest of the film is more straightforward in its approach to the drama, though that’s not to say it doesn’t look impressive in a reserved sort of way.
There’s a nice turn from Sarah Solemani late on as a shelter worker, which is pitched in just such a way as to prevent her from coming across as a saintly figure, but simply a hardworking, caring human being. This section of the film – despite the introduction of some fairly bland supporting characters – works well, and leaves the audience with a sense of warmth.
The film is not interested in doing much beyond telling a fairly simple story, but it tells that story well enough. The reveal in the third act is punch y and effective, though there is an argument that it could’ve been introduced a little earlier. As it is, by the time we start to really understand Hector, the film is almost over.