Time Out of Mind Review - Gere, Sedgwick and Vereen Create an Extraordinary Portrayal

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Time Out Of Mind, from IFC Films, brings to the screen a rare, honest and poignant representation of homelessness, the fix-it spiral, the impotent system, the sabotage from callous and uncaring workers and the life of the homeless.

Directed and written by Orne Moverman based on a story by Jeffrey Caine, Time Out of Mind stars Richard Gere, Steve Buscemi, Ben Vereen and Kyra Sedgwick.

Time Out Of Mind, set in New York City, opens with a hung over George, clinging to an empty bottle, played skillfully by Richard Gere, being ejected from a run-down squatter's apartment building. Expecting his fictitious girlfriend, he insists she is returning. The building manager, played by Steve Buscemi, has obviously heard every story, and doesn't fall for this one either.

Soon George is on the street again and has obviously lived on the streets for some time, the character isn't one the working homeless or those who live out of their car or other temporary and unfortunate outgrowths of an increasingly expensive city with limited affordable housing.

Attempting to reconnect with his family, he carries photos of better days, when he was cognizant, wasn't ruled by alcohol, and when the demons stayed at bay. His daughter, now grown, has, apparently for some time, imposed an estrangement. The dark days are too clear and too fresh.

The film travels through the seasonal transitions associated with the east coast with the unpredictable weather becomes the second lead, violent, stormy, bitter cold each show up with its own set of coping circumstances. The beauty of nature, that so often energizes the soul, becomes the enemy in the darkened days as finding shelter from the elements is paramount.

Temperatures regulate when the city's homeless can stay indoors at local hospitals, without harassment or intervention, which George finds out as he seeks shelter in Bellevue Hospital one night and the next is asked to leave. If the mercury rises above a very chilly 38 degrees, homeless are mandated to the streets.

Dixon, played by an unrecognizable Ben Vereen, a seasoned and lauded performer, shows up as a chronic homeless man who George befriends at the local intake center and they begin to navigate the two steps forward; three steps back system shuffle. Tackling one task a day, slowly the documents needed are gathered, and a small seasonal friendship is formed.

The friendship also shows how mental illness is often disguised. A stand out scene, near the end, as the Dixon and George begin to argue over the ability to play the piano. Dixon deteriorates as George insists he prove his skill. Finally, George takes to the keys and as it is well known that Gere can play which closes out the scene and again at the film's end. 

Kyra Sedgwick also shows up unrecognizable as a Can Lady, pushing her cart of possessions, collecting cans. She and George share a scene which explains her situation.

Navigating the impotent system is so accurately portrayed it is frustrating to watch and one can only imagine, even the small tasks of securing identification (after an ID theft) become insurmountable. Racial insensitivities, and typical temporary fix it solutions are poised by callous workers as if they weren't already exhausted, at least in thought, which is a common tactic to dissuade those with other options as limited space and extreme need dictate.

Time Out Of Mind is not a feel good film, it doesn't end neatly with all problems fixed. It does, however, present an accurate picture of life on the streets and a broken system taxed beyond its limits.

Homelessness is an ever growing problem and not only for the chronic homeless due to mental or other diagnoses. As economic conditions worsen homelessness, with its debilitating tentacles, reach into the working class, the hourly wage workers, who can't afford to live in the city or anywhere close and end up living out of a vehicle or through wherewithal and ingenuity find a way which breaks down the mind and body. Not having the basic need of shelter met can create a lifetime of physical, mental and emotional issues.

Housing centers, or intake centers, portrayed in Time Out of Mind, are designed predominately for minorities, or those with obvious physical disabilities or diagnosed mental illnesses.

Manhattan's homeless community is as segregated as the neighborhoods. Most areas have the local homeless guy, a non-violent panhandler, who is never perceived as dangerous or with the antisocial behaviors that cause police or services intervention. It is his corner, neighbors call him by "name," food and change are left during the night.

Homelessness is a global problem and even as accurately as it portrayed, which could conceivably be the system in any city in the world, there isn't any quick fix – it is the mighty clash between profit or capitalism and need and availability.

Most homeless, even as society sees a clear distinction, don't meet the very strict system criteria and the majority of "homeless" are defined as "general pop" or general population housing (by definition what any person would be eligible to secure with finances the only determining factor) and aren't eligible for low-income, need based, housing most cities offer.

Time Out Of Mind doesn't take on the issues and present solutions. The film through the writing and skill of the talent provide a very vivid and uncomfortable portrayal of homelessness in New York City where the social illness is most obvious.

Gere, at times, is unrecognizable. George the NYC homeless man navigating the system filled with seemingly impossible requirements and black holes takes over. Not known for these types of roles, Gere digs deep and delivers.

Segewick and Vereen are also unrecognizable in their roles both as homeless compatriots.

Vereen could be mentioned during awards season if the film qualifies. Gere is deeply talented and is taking on more projects that force him to reach outside his comfort zone which he does, or at least he's outside of my comfort zone. He is connected and believable.

Time Out of Mind a festival favorite opened the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and has received notice and has been featured globally at film festivals since.

Time out of Mind begins its theatrical run in select cities September 9, 2015 and on VOD September 15, 2015.

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