EIFF 2015 – Hector
Jake Gavin’s Hector stars Peter Mullan as the titular character and follows him as he lives his life hitchhiking from place to place.
Hector McAdam (Peter Mullan) has been living on the road for an untold number of years for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. The story is kept very loose and his only objective is to get to London to spend Christmas with those he considers to be his family.
In short this film is a powerful and moving character study. Peter Mullan is instantly likeable as he gives the character of Hector a large amount of warmth and integrity without the script beating the audience over the head with it. It is very quickly established that Hector feels that he should be living this life and is reluctant to take help from anyone. There are times where he has to but he never takes any more than he needs to get by.
Making Hector a likeable presence is instrumental to making this film work as he has to carry every single scene. The camera follows him from place to place and never cuts away from him for anything. Other characters are only established by their relationship to him and only hang around the story for as long as they need to. It’s a very definitive character study on the life of this transient individual.
Pretty much everything about this film works with Peter Mullan absolutely killing it in every scene. The dialogue is sharply written and delivered ably by him. He is a man of few words but whenever he speaks it feels important. There’s an innate warmth and generosity about him that makes him easy to root for with carefully crafted facial expressions giving off more emotion than words ever could.
His character doesn’t really develop as such as he arrives fully formed meaning that the film spends most of its time letting the audience get to know Hector as he is now and hinting at the events that got him to this point. The influence he’s had on certain people is clearly shown through the things people who know him are willing to do for him. He also inspires acts of kindness in many of the strangers he comes across due to his natural likeability.
There’s a bit of a mystery set up from the beginning of the film. I found myself questioning what caused him to want to live his life like this. He still has family and there seems to have been something of a falling out in the past but the circumstances are left vague for most of the narrative. Everything is explained by the end but I like how things moved on with the question constantly in the air.
As I mentioned above the overall story is kept simple with a more character driven focus driving the narrative. The story beats change as Hector reaches new places and talks to different people. It all feels viscerally authentic as he encounters real kindness on his travels as well as some terrible people. This seems real because that’s exactly what happens in life. I found it to be quite eye opening to the lives of homeless people traveling from place to place looking for something to lift them out of their circumstances. Hector doesn’t want his life to change but he encounters plenty of people who do. The sense of community he finds among the people he meets is really inspiring to see as well.
A feeling of melancholy exists throughout the film and Hector’s medical frailties make the journey seem all the more difficult. Having the camera follow him lets the audience be right next to him as he struggles on through a sheer act of will. We feel every groan and difficult step along the way and I was definitely rooting for him to keep going.
I would say that there was no real need to explain what had caused him to live his life this way. Any scene involving his family was great but I think it might have worked slightly better if his family were around but it was left ambigious as to why he no longer speaks to them. I like the idea of only being able to take Hector as we see him without learning anything about his past to reinforce or colour that perception. It all worked but I would have been fine without knowing.
A powerful and engaging character study with a superb performance from Peter Mullan in the lead role.
The story is kept simple to focus on the character of Hector as he travels from place to place. Most of what we learn about him is through is interactions with the people he meets along the way. Mullan is instantly likeable in the role and gives Hector a sense of innate kindness and warmth that helps to prop up the whole film.
Hector’s past is kept mysterious throughout most of the film and the audience spends most of the film without the context of what led to him living his life this way. It is explained by the end but Hector always remained interesting without things being spelled out.
The camera follows him through every scene with no cutting away which gives the audience a very intimate connection with Hector as he struggles on. Every pain and groan is felt by the audience while he keeps traveling through sheer force of will. Mullen does a fantastic job of carrying this film with expertly delivered dialogue as well as a lot said through his facial expressions.
If anything was to be removed I would say that the scenes with his family weren’t needed. They were as sharply written and well acted as the rest of the film but I was fine with taking Hector at face value without any voices from the past colouring that in any way.
If you ever have the opportunity to see this film I would heavily recommend it. It’s very short and never drags at any point so it’s relatively easy to watch while being very moving and eye opening at points.