A Christmas film with a decidedly more depressing angle than is the norm. Hector (Peter Mullan) is a homeless pensioner living rough in Scotland and has been doing so for many years – although he has managed to make some friends, played by Keith Allen and Natalie Gavin, and indeed has become a regular at a Christmas shelter in London, which he is determined to reach this year as well via a lengthy bout of hitchhiking. This time, however, he needs a crutch to walk and ailing general health means he is scheduled for an operation after the holiday season, though for exactly what we aren’t told.
From first-time writer and director Jake Gavin, it’s as bleak as it needed to be for the first half of the film, as we watch Hector survive in the face of bitter elements opposed to that very purpose, and choosing to ground it as a Christmas movie was perfect as it reminds us of those less fortunate than ourselves and the hardships they will be enduring right now. Thereafter, the film warms up thematically as Hector’s backstory is explored amidst the arrival of friendlier faces and it’s here that a massive opportunity has been missed – the current political climate in Britain with the Tory party in power has left many vulnerable people homeless and destitute for no good reason and yet the exact mechanisms for this are very much under the public radar, reason being a decidedly right-wing and pro-Tory media (evinced by the somewhat pantomime attack on left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn – especially by the BBC, who seem to enjoy camping outside his front door ready to insult him every time he leaves home).
The story could have explored this dark facet of modern Britain, and indeed the medium of film is one bastion that can illuminate current circumstance, but alas the retirement of Ken Loach from feature films has left a noticeable void in British film for the cries of the voiceless, and the character of Hector is very much a victim of both chance and his own feelings of hopelessness. Dramatically fine, but given the bigger picture perhaps a little easy overall. Mullan is convincing throughout and the beautiful Sarah Solemani also shines as the care worker whose relationship with the people around her may be more symbiotic than is apparent.