People don’t generally go to see movies about homeless people, but Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind is something different and deserves to be seen. Director Moverman, recovering from a slight stumble with Rampart and returning to the glories of The Messenger, directs Time Out of Mind in an unconventional, appealingly immersive way.
We’re introduced to our main character, George (Richard Gere) in a series of conflicting images and words. He has what appears to be a nice coat and clothes, but also a strange haircut and a scar on his head; he may have been homeless for only a day or two, or for a long time. He’s searching for a woman in an apartment, but she is no longer there. Did she ever exist? Did she leave recently, or a long time ago?
George wanders the streets in a non-narrative capacity, hocking his coat for beer money, hooking up with a homeless woman (a nearly unrecognizable Kyra Sedgwick), trying to apply for aid (but unable to remember his social security number). He checks into a homeless shelter and picks up the chattery Dixon (Ben Vereen) as a temporary friend. He also tries to check up on his daughter (Jena Malone), who — due to some past crime or crimes — wants nothing to do with him.
Moverman directs mainly with long lenses and hidden cameras, giving the story an observatory tone; it’s just there, happening in front of us, just like life. Gere was apparently filmed panhandling on the streets of New York, no cameras in sight, and not one person recognized him.
There’s no musical score, and the street noises provide a kind soundscape to take its place. (One of the recurring themes is the search to find a place to sleep that isn’t eventually disturbed by too much noise.) Overall, it’s an almost dreamy piece of work, with very little preaching about the state of homelessness today and instead a deep pondering of existence, surfaces, and identity. The title comes from Bob Dylan’s 1997 album, and reflects this feeling of not being in time… being outside of everything.