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  • Narrative Feature / USA
  • Director: Clay Riley Hassler
  • Writers: Anna Fields, Clay Riley Hassler

This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

In Clay Riley Hassler‘s Homeless, Michael McDowell plays Gosh (pronounced Josh), a teenager who’s homeless and struggling to improve his situation. We follow Gosh as he spends his days searching for a job until nightfall when he goes back to the homeless shelter. When he meets a single mother at the mall, things start to look up.

McDowell gives a terrific performance in Homeless. He captures the desolation and the depression of the character in long, quiet moments that draw us into his story. The character isn’t prideful. He’s willing to accept help where he can find it. But what Homeless captures incredibly well is the emotionally fractured psyche of its main character. Gosh is withdrawn and as he stumbles in his journey, he becomes less assertive. He’s a victim of circumstance that is quietly being torn apart.

The movie tackles the greater issue of homelessness by subverting the stereotypes and stigmas associated with it. Gosh is a compassionate, sensible kid who is in a horrible situation. He’s painfully aware of the stigma that being homeless carries and it severely damages his potential to improve his life. Homeless skillfully demonstrates how easy it is to fall into a cycle from which it’s incredibly difficult to break.

Hopeful in some moments and heartbreaking in others, Homeless examines the painful reality of falling on hard times without a support system and the potentially insurmountable task of picking yourself back up again. Filmed in a real homeless shelter with real homeless people, the movie doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of its subject matter. Through its main character, Homeless is a window into the bleak and despondent world of victims of circumstance who fall through the cracks.

Obsessive Grade – 8.0/10

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