Hard-hitting trio of films tackle homelessness at Toronto festival

Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:56am EDT
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By Jeffrey Hodgson

TORONTO (Reuters) - The scourge of homelessness has emerged as a major theme at this year's Toronto film festival, driven by performances from an unlikely trio: an Oscar-winning actress, a well-known male sex symbol and a recently recovered heroin addict.

"Time Out of Mind" and "Shelter," which had their world premieres at the 11-day movie showcase, and "Heaven Knows What," which came to Toronto after a debut at the Venice festival, all focus on characters who struggle with homelessness and addiction on the streets of New York.

The films reflect just how pronounced the homelessness problem is in the city, said "Time Out of Mind" director Oren Moverman.

"The first thing you do when you're trying to fix something is to call attention to it. So I think these three films are trying to call attention to something and I think that they should be commended for it," Moverman told Reuters ahead of the film's premiere this week.

"Time Out of Mind" features "Pretty Woman" star Richard Gere, an actor better known for roles as a corporate raider, hedge fund manager and smooth-talking lawyer. Variety has already called it one of his more remarkable performances.

The actor once described as the sexiest man alive by People magazine is almost unrecognizable as George, a vagrant who shuffles between abandoned houses, park benches and overcrowded men's shelters, with frequent trips to a liquor store when he gets enough money.

While part of the film is about his attempts to reconcile with an estranged daughter, much of the story is simply uninterrupted takes of Gere begging for change, scrounging for food or struggling to navigate the bureaucracy for something as common as an identity document.

Jennifer Connelly, who won a best supporting Oscar in 2002 for "A Beautiful Mind", has received positive reviews for her performance in "Shelter", written and director by her actor husband Paul Bettany. She plays Hannah, who spirals from an affluent existence into depression and addiction after the death of her husband.   Continued...

Actors Jena Malone and Richard Gere arrive for the "Time Out of Mind" gala at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, September 7, 2014.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch