Hope and Refrigeratorss – A Review of Hunter Gatherer
Recently released from prison, Ashley Douglas (Andre Royo) is ready to restart his life. With little more than a toolbox full of his belongings–buried in his mother’s backyard–he aims to win back his ex Linda (Ashley Wilkerson), refusing to accept that she’s moved on. After a chance run-in, Ashley befriends Jeremy (George Sample III), a lonely young man who earns money through experimental medical trials and lives with his bedridden grandfather in a nursing home. Now with a partner, Ashley sets out to start a business disposing of unwanted refrigerators for $75 at a time, an enterprises that stalls immediately when Jeremy’s truck breaks down. Neither man has much going for them other than a strong sense of optimism and a desire to carve out some semblance of happiness in spite of all the obstacles thrown their way. Their lives and trials are brought to vivid and heartrending life in Hunter Gatherer, the debut feature film by Josh Locy.
Hunter Gatherer is a remarkable work of cinema that sticks with you long after watching. Every scene aches of humanity in a way few films have accomplished. Already an actor of note thanks to his roles in The Wire and Empire, Andre Royo delivers an awards-worthy performance as Ashley, a flawed but charismatic man who wants the best for himself, but often falls victim to self-sabotage and arrogance. You want to see him succeed so badly, which makes each setback more devastating than the last. Part underdog/part ne’er do well, Ashley never quite has the odds in his favor, but that does not damper is hope. As Jeremy, George Sample III is the perfect counterbalance. He’s quiet whereas Ashley is loud; thoughtful and calculating to Ashley’s impulsiveness. Ashley wants everything he feels he deserves; Jeremy just wants to care for his grandfather. Despite their differences, the two men both have large hearts, which solidifies their bond and the audience’s investment in the pair.
I want to list every authentic moment in the film, from Ashley shopping for a backpack to Jeremy naively asking if the doctor at the medical trial has his best interests in mind. If I were to go down that rabbit hole, I’d wind up transcribing the entire screenplay. Nothing feels out of place in the film. Every supporting character is as fully realized as Ashley and Jeremy, from Ashley’s mother (Celestial) who is patient with her son to a fault, to Jeremy’s aunt Nat (Kellee Stewart), a love interest Ashley is too distracted to pursue because of his feelings for Linda. The film’s camera work is subtle and effective. And the music by Keegan DeWitt is captivating–upbeat and unnerving in equal measures. It’s difficult to refrain from hyperbole when extolling the virtues of this film. Recently nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards, which is given to the best film made for under $500k, Hunter Gatherer deserves large audiences and a great deal of acclaim. It’s easily one of the best films I have watched this year and one I plan on showing to others for years to come. Just thinking about the last shot, I’m torn between wanting to cry or start watching the film over again.