Hector McAdam (Peter Mullan) is making his way from Scotland to London for his annual visit to the Christmas homeless shelter. Having disappeared 17 years ago, leaving his family behind, he decides to stop off in Newcastle and reconnect with his estranged family and his reasons for leaving soon come to light.

As Hector makes his long journey across the United Kingdom, as an aging homeless man, he faces cruelty and heartache but is also shown tremendous kindness and friendship also through a gritty lens. Photographer-turned-writer-director, Jake Gavin, brings maturity and heart to his debut feature about a community seemingly ignored by society and the world of film. Hector makes this journey every year yet, this time, he attempts to reconnect with family and we uncover what led to his current situation.

The narrative takes place in the run-up to Christmas, with the wildness of the Scottish weather enhancing the sense of hardship. Opening to a concrete service station, we’re introduced to our protagonist, an old homeless man with fragility – he walks with a limp yet he is in good spirits. Hector is clearly a piece of British social realism yet it does avoid the over the top miserabalism, featuring some scenes which are genuinely heart-warming. Hector is, on some level, in control of his situation. Whilst he may not have a home, he has thick skin and he is collecting a regular pension which provides the basics for living – food and water, the means to clean himself and perhaps the odd can of beer and some biscuits. He also has fellow itinerants who lack these luxuries, however; a teenager Hazel (Natalie Gavin) and old pal Dougie (Laurie Ventry) and his pet dog.

Hector’s plan to travel to a homeless hostel in London for some Christmas festiveness with his buddies is interrupted by a hospital appointment that prompts him to take tentative steps to find his family. What follows is a physical and mental journey and more importantly, a character study. Gavin presents the people Hector encounters along the way, including a drunk named Jimbo (Keith Allen), in a naturalistic but generally positive light although the narrative also exposes the harsh realities of their situation. This is made all the more effective by what Gavin chooses not to say, forcing us to make our own speculations which are all the more powerful and heartbreaking.

While the characters are no saints, there is a humanity to their actions that feels so much more realistic. Sarah Solemani also stars as Sara, the hostel manager who helps Hector to locate his family. Whilst she has a relatively small part, her character brings a lot of warmth to the story. Ultimately all the acting is very believable although Keith Allen’s character seems to bring almost nothing to the film. An important role is that of Hazel who represents all the young women on the streets. It is suggested that she suffered abuse which resulted in her homelessness and, being a young girl, she is prey to far more dangers and it is clear that Gavin uses her as an outlet to voice this, even if not directly referenced.

Overall, Hector is a refreshing and realistic piece of social realism that is likely to win over audiences beyond the art-house niche. It is as endearing as it is inspiring yet it does lack some rhythm. It seems that it is less about a man trying to find his family and more about his situation and raising awareness – right in time for Christmas.

Movie Review: Hector
3.0Overall Score
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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, http://www.popcornandglitter.co.uk Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophieathawes