An unstructured but curious look at one disadvantaged man's quest for the American dream.
Countless businessmen will tell you that appearance is a vital part of success. If you look successful, people will assume that you are successful. If you dress like a bum, people will assume you are a bum. Thus is the case for Mark Reay, the subject of Thomas Wirthensohn’s documentary Homme Less.
Mark is a model, actor, and photographer who has fallen on hard times in recent years. Essentially homeless—somewhat by choice—he bathes in a gym where he keeps most of his belongings in the locker room and sleeps under a tarp on the rooftop of a seedy apartment. Things clearly could be better for Mark, yet he still maintains a professional appearance in his everyday life. He keeps a clean look. He dresses nice, stays in shape, and always gives off the impression that he is doing well. Though he claims to be happy with his life, it does appear like part of his act; pretending to be content with having to trespass on private property in order to sleep.
Those susceptible to secondhand embarrassment will cringe their way through some parts of Homme Less as Mark finds himself in countless awkward situations throughout the film. One scene finds Reay trying to sneak through an apartment complex without anyone seeing him. As he scurries around, avoiding contact, the bleak reality of his living situation begins to sink in. Early on, Mark looks into the camera and tells the audience that he basically chooses to live life this way in order to save rent money while living in a large city. Whether or not that is true is certainly up for debate, and it’s a shame that the film doesn’t explore more of Mark’s psyche. Wirthensohn instead chooses to focus primarily on his subject’s daily life instead of the motivation behind a person chasing their dreams so determinedly despite being dealt hard circumstances. It’s an interesting film regardless, but it would have been nice to learn more about what makes Mark tick.
Unfortunately, this lack of depth means the film lacks scope. It’s an entertaining ride, but by the time the credits begin to roll, we’re left with something that feels more like the pilot episode of a documentary series than a single feature film. Because Mark is both an interesting character and leads a particularly unconventional life, there seems to be so much more to have been learned and Homme Less hardly cracks the surface. There’s a fine line between leaving an audience wanting more and leaving a story incomplete and here it feels less intentional and more unfinished.
On a technical scale, Homme Less is sharp from start to finish; remarkable considering the crew consisted only of Wirthensohn. Based on the guerilla nature of the film, the cinematography is surprisingly crisp and clear, as is the audio quality. A phenomenal score by Kyle Eastwood and Matt McGuire brings a classic, jazzy vibe to the film, and stands out as a highlight. The music brilliantly compliments Reay as he walks through situations with a seemingly unbridled confidence.
Homme Less provides a heartbreaking look into the life of a man who, despite dealing with difficult situations on an hourly basis, finds the ability to unleash his unique brand of positivity into the world. It’s not a groundbreaking or awe-inspiring documentary, but it doesn’t attempt such greatness. Thanks to its charm, heart, and peculiar subject, Homme Less ends up being an admirable, if not a rather unstructured directorial début from Wirthensohn.