Hunter Gather marks Joshua Locy’s first venture as both a writer and a director after formerly working as an art director. This encouraging debut is an understated and quirky comedy about surviving in a lower-class black neighbourhood whilst finding glimmers of joy in the simpler things. Although far from perfect, it certainly broadcasts Locy as a capable director and is a refreshing break from the filmmaking norm.
Returning to live with his mother following a three year stint in prison, Ashley (Andre Royo – The Wire) is looking to continue his life exactly where he left off. Except everyone around him has moved on. This does little to affect his infectiously positive outlook on life, rather it gives him new life goals. Firstly, to win back his sweetheart Linda, who has since moved on to a local garbageman, and secondly, to hustle enough money to treat her how he feels she deserves. His escapades lead him into the refrigerator disposal business, one that gives short term financial gain in return for a garden full of broken refrigerators that he lacks the ability to shift. Enter Jeremy (George Sample III). Around half his age, this curious initial encounter blossoms into a charming friendship with each providing the other with their most urgent needs. Ashley, with a truck to transport his fridges and a first friend after his release from prison and Jeremy, with an important father figure as his only referenced family is the grandfather who’s nursing home room he sleeps in.
The feeling of renewed childhood is used consistently throughout the film with this being the source of many hilarious moments. During an exchange at a school supplies store, Ashley asks the worker to give him recommendations and ultimately critique his look wearing different backpacks. The effortless manner this scene plays out cements it’s place as perhaps the best in the film. Later on, a situation that is all too familiar for those in the audience, the ‘but mum’ moment. Where one child receives a stern telling off from his mother in the presence of a friend. It’s highly entertaining to watch this unravel with a forty something year old man as the target. Humour lies at the core of this film, whether whimsical like those mentioned or deadpan, like Jeremy reminiscing about the time his pinky toe was removed and reattached using a laser. Locy manages to integrate bizarre elements into his scenes without losing the realistic foundation he has made.
Unconventionality is embraced by Locy in various aspects of the film, for example the camera is used in ways not often seen on the silver screen. One in particular which worked each time it was utilised was the ‘blur to foreground, blur to background’ technique. Whether to emphasis loneliness or show different character’s exploits in a single shot, this stood out as interesting and incredibly well implemented. The same cannot be said about everything Locy attempts. At several points the film strays into surrealism with the main characters faces overlapping and passing through each other. This seemed out of place but also a step away from style of work that suits Locy best.
Hunter Gatherer excels in making the abnormal normal with situations that seem ludicrous in real life feeling utterly everyday through Locy’s directorial style. Occasionally it may wander beyond its boundaries but the poetic beauty and ever-positive Ashley make this film one you won’t easily forget.