Peter Mullan always seems to snag the parts of the homeless alkie. Hector McAdam doesn’t even have to be an alkie, just grizzled looking as Peter Mullan in a beanie hat, and as if he’s just stepped out a cardboard box, washed up in a motorway café’s toilet and rustled up a quick snack. He’s left two pals and a dog still sleeping at the side of the building. He nips of the post office to pick up his pension and bought his pals cans of beer. They’re hitchhiking to London, but he’s got to go to hospital for tests, and it’s the one beside me, The Golden Jubilee. No fixed address, no place to call home. They tell him to come back in January. For the last 15 years he’s went to the same place in London that gives a bed and puts on a spread for the down and outs at Christmas.
I’ve hitchhiked to London a few times (stick a thumb out outside Calder Park Zoo) and slept in a plastic bin bag beside other homeless people, with people from soup kitchens coming in the middle of the night offering throwaway cartons of minestrone soup to throwaway people. I was younger then and not running away from anything, but you learn little tricks like don’t put your bin bag down near doorways where large groups of people gather, because, inevitably, someone will have pished there. Safety in numbers. But always know your exits because to a bear in a wood a man in a sleeping bag is a ready-wrapped snack. For Hector this is second-nature. What brought him to this state is drip fed to the viewer.
First clue is he’s looking for his sister in Liverpool. He goes to a house where she once stayed, but she’d moved. Her husband works as a car dealer. Hector goes to his work. A grizzled Glaswegian among all those shiny new toys. He’s given a cup of tea and short shrift.
In London, the shelter he goes to every year is already full. No room at the inn. But he’s recognised by a saintly worker, Hazel (Natalie Gavin) and a camp bed set up in one of the dorms. Hector is among friends. Then his brother turns up. We learn more about his life. The cliff edge Hector fell off 15 years ago is revealed. A bit too melodramatic for my liking. A jigsaw with some bits missing is still a jigsaw. The question in the quest then becomes, will he live happily ever after, especially when his wee sister resurfaces and they have a family reunion. In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy claims all happy families are the same. You don’t need to fling yourself under a train to figure that they aren’t. Hector, and writer/director Jake Gavin, gets pass marks for trying to reveal something of humanity many of us already know. It’s complicated. Those that don’t know, won’t get it. Authenticity is hard won.