sun 16/06/2024

Hoard review - not any old rubbish | reviews, news & interviews

Hoard review - not any old rubbish

Hoard review - not any old rubbish

A star is born amid the muck and squalor of Luna Carmoon's ambitious directorial debut

Mired in lust: Saura Lightfoot-Leon and Joseph Quinn in 'Hoard'Delaval Film/Erebus Pictures

A visually dazzling, fiercely acted psychological drama with a manic comic edge, Hoard channels an 18-year-old South Londoner’s quest to lay the ghost – or reclaim the spirit – of her long dead mentally ill mother through her sexual pursuit of the 30-ish man she’s infatuated with. 

If the premise sounds like a recipe for a clichéd coming-of-age story, the film’s taboo imagery – magical but malodorous refuse, food muckily splattered on flesh during bouts of prolonged foreplay – imparts Freudian meanings to Luna Carmoon’s debut as writer-director. 

Originating in a story Carmoon wrote as a suicide note, and as a way of memorialising the women who raised her, Hoard is split into two sections. In the first, seven-year-old Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) lives with her reclusive single mother Cynthia (Hayley Squires, magnificent) in a home the latter has filled ankle-deep with junk and trash she collects during their nocturnal raids on other people’s dustbins. (Pictured below: Leach and Squires)

Afflicted with OCD, Cynthia gathers the rubbish as an act of love and devotion to her daughter, Maria an uncomplaining Girl Friday to her wild-eyed Crusoe. Some of Cynthia’s finds are pretty, such as sparkling Christmas tree lights and Maria’s white pet ferret, which has free rein in the detritus, but the discovery of something putrefying – something Lynchian or Cronebergian – under the top layer demonstrates Cynthia’s need for urgent help. An accident occurs before she can get it, leaving Maria bereft.

The second section is set 11 years later in the 1990s. Maria (Saura Lightfoot-Leon), now a rangy sixth former living with her kindly foster mother, Michelle (Samantha Spiro), is intelligent and ebullient, but lacks focus or a vocation. Carmoon captures Maria’s frothing energy in a scene where she leads her best mate Laraib (Deba Hekmat) in a sardonically rah dance, as if they are slumming in a Kensington nightclub and mocking the Sloanes. 

When the two go to a pub, a good-looking bloke (Sam John) who catches Maria’s eye fatally admits over the pool table that he is daunted by her. What she needs is a challenge. One turns up in the shape of Michael (Joseph Quinn), a lumpen former foster child of Michelle, who moves back into her house temporarily because the place he’s getting with his dull pregnant girlfriend (Ceara Coveney) isn’t ready.

Michael is a binman and oozes masculinity, reckons Michelle’s approving pal Sam (Cathy Tyson). For Maria, he oozes something else, something primal. She takes one sniff of him and smells her buried past, triggering the return of the repressed. (Carmoon had the set sprayed with a scent suggestive of sperm, sweat, milk and blood.) Michael's own traumatic history is reawakened by Maria – perhaps his dead mum looked like Chrissie Shrimpton or Hilary Dwyer? He and Maria are like Sid and Nancy without the death wish.  

Their ensuing pas de deux involves a bullfight charade, dry humping, and a messy food fight – it makes sense that a garbage-pail kid like Maria would indulge nostalgie de la boue. They play out their passion until Maria reveals the secret of where her pathological journey has led her, an all too predictable anti-climax for a movie that deserved a richer ending, perhaps a less resolved one.

Otherwise, the film is beautifully crafted. Like another recent working-class drama with a memorable female protagonist, Sacha Polak’s more socially realistic Silver Haze, Hoard shows great promise for independent British cinema. Blessed by Nanu Segal’s cinematography, Carmoon has the eye – the nose, too – of a witchy fabulist, a conjuror of spells. And though some of Lightfoot-Leon’s acting choices erred on the extravagant here, she has a blazing talent and everything else she needs to become a major star.

She takes one sniff of him and smells her buried past, triggering the return of the repressed

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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