Homme Less is a documentary about a homeless person, but not just any homeless person. Mark Reay chooses to forego an apartment so he can continue his seemingly glamorous lifestyle as a former model turned photographer/background artist in Manhattan (at one point he is seen on the set of Men in Black III). His income is spent on food, gym membership, clothes, and networking in clubs and bars with fashion industry insiders. He remarks at one point that his old friends assume he still lives a playboy lifestyle; it’s not hard to see why, with his elegant style and silver-haired likeness for Billy Crudup.
Reay’s an intriguing subject that the filmmakers try to digitally capture using a cinema verité approach for his day-to-day routine, in which he snaps and charms young models in the crowded streets before stealthily returning to his makeshift rooftop bed. This “home” is located on top of one of his acquaintance’s apartment complexes, highlighting Reay’s essentially dualistic and secretive lifestyle. For the most part this dynamic is entertaining, but there are definitely chinks at points with Reay’s background in showbiz, meaning it is hard not to believe he is putting on a show for the camera when he is off the clock, such as his singing the Bee Gees aloud in an intimate café next to strangers.
Director Thomas Wirthensohn struggles to elevate the material beyond the inherent hook of the premise. His digital filmmaking style betrays a deeply formulaic approach with its straight-outta-film-school montages of pedestrians and time-lapse shots of the New York cityscape at night, all set to Kyle Eastwood and Matt McGuire’s jazz score, which is pleasant but entirely obvious, given the setting.
Thankfully, even minor cinema verité films, by dint of their intimate nature, usually access at least a handful of poignant moments. Homme Less is no exception to this, with one touching scene showing Reay, hired to dress like Santa Claus, befriending a group of very appreciative young children who offer the love and affection he would seemingly never receive as his true self. The film excels more in the occasional detail than the overall canvas but, for offering a unique slice of life, it lives up to its witty title.
Homme Less is released in selected cinemas on 12th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Homme Less here: