Time Out of Mind

Moverman, Oren

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Annotated by:
Bruell , Lucy
  • Date of entry: Mar-06-2020
  • Last revised: Mar-06-2020


A construction crew enters an abandoned apartment in NYC and finds an older man in a wool overcoat asleep in the bathtub.  He can’t tell them his name or how he got there, just that he’s waiting for his friend, Sheila, to come back to the apartment.  The building manager (Steve Buscemi) throws him out of the building and into a life on the street, drinking, sleeping wherever he can, and riding the trains.  His name, we later find out, is George (Richard Gere), and he is one of NYC’s homeless men.  George can’t seem to remember much about his past, only that his wife died of breast cancer, he lost his job, and he has a daughter (Jena Malone) who works at a nearby bar but wants nothing to do with him.  After nights trying to find a warm place to sleep, George ends up at the Bellevue Men’s Shelter where he is befriended by Dixon (Ben Vereen).  Dixon shows George the ropes—how to apply for assistance, where to get a copy of his birth certificate, where they can get a shower up in the Bronx.  But Dixon disappears, removed from the shelter ostensibly for being disruptive. George is left on his own.

We don’t know who Sheila is, or even whether she is real.  George sees a woman (Kyra Sedgwich) pushing a shopping cart by the river and calls out to her.  She’s not Sheila.  They share a couple of cans of beer and spend the night in a park near the river. “ You’ve got to get along to get along,” she tells him.  Your real friends will look out for you on the street.”  But in the morning she is gone- George wakes up to laughter from boys who are snapping photos of him under his blanket.  On his own again, in and out of shelters, George drops by the bar to see his daughter, hoping to overcome their estrangement. 


Richard Gere isn’t quite believable as a man of the streets, but the cast overall is impressive.  The film uses reflections as a visual motif- showing us a fractured view of George’s world, never allowing the viewer to get a real sense of George’s inner self.  Its soundtrack is a creative cacophony of conversations of people on the street—arguments, breakups, encounters with cops—what George hears only adds to his confusion and his feeling of being alone and overlooked by passersby.  His  character is vague- we want to know more about him- what happened to him?  Was it alcohol, grief over the loss of his wife, or unemployment that led him to this point?  We don’t know, but it really doesn’t matter in the end.  As the title suggests, this is a life out of mind; the focus is on the day to day struggle to survive on the streets, the ingenuity it takes to stay alive, and the need for personal connection especially during hard times. Out of the Mind is a portrait of this life, not only of its harshness, but also of the bursts of compassion that remind us of our responsibility to one another.