The most wrenching scene in Time Out of Mind occurs when Richard Gere’s character, George Hammond, faces his status in society. He frantically asks his annoying bunkmate, “Am I homeless?” Yes, he’s homeless, but it takes him a long time to accept or even utter the word. As his feckless friend points out, “You don’t exist.”
Scenes in the homeless shelter are painfully realistic. While a roof, bed, and a few square meals are things to be grateful for, the dehumanization of the occupants is often too high a price to pay. Many choose freedom at the expense of their health and even their lives. They would rather be free than remain in regimented, potentially dangerous shelters.
Freedom is a terrible thing to give up. Look past the bottle in Gere’s brown bag and try to remember the person his character must once have been. He is likely someone much like yourself.
Hammond is a sympathetic character, even when hints of his past suggest many wasted opportunities. His bartender daughter is none too happy to see him when he shows up at her place of work, hinting for a handout. She angrily shows him the door, yet is clearly torn by his visit. He is, after all, her father. Even his remaining high-priced clothes suggest happier times.
Gere spent many days living on the streets in preparation for the role of George Hammond, being recognized only twice. That’s surprising for a man of his stature in Hollywood, whose good looks he maintains as he ages gracefully. It’s sobering to think of less-famous individuals we pass by or step over on the streets every day as we go about the normal lives most of the homeless once lived themselves.
One young woman startled Gere himself by giving him her pizza while he ate from discarded leftovers in a trash can. He appeared genuinely taken aback by her kindness and generosity. He didn’t reveal his identity, and the woman never recognized him. Hopefully, she’ll see herself in the widely-circulated YouTube video, gone viral now, and be encouraged to perform the same act of kindness again.
This movie isn’t easy to watch, and did not make much noise at the box office. It was critically well-received, while Netflix viewers gives it one star. It deserves and needs to be seen. Uncomfortable subjects don’t make for popular viewing amongst games and thrones and happily-ever-after. Perhaps, therein lies the problem.