There are so many reasons to like the recently debuted and utterly original drama "Hunter Gatherer". At least there are for me. Candidly, I went into this movie with modest expectations at best. I emerged from the experience knocked completely on my can.
Number one, the film's star, Andre Royo. The veteran actor absolutely inhabits his character of Ashley, a total sad sack and selfish dunderhead who isn't fooling anybody with his foolish scams and attempts to be somebody he is not, which is one of life's hopeless losers. Still, despite there not being much to root for with Ashley, Royo's performance is so compelling and charged with naive optimism that we practically can't help but root for him to make something out of his nothing existence, an unforgiving reality created entirely of his own vices and devices.
Secondly, the barely known George Sample III. This young man is a genuine revelation as Ashley's happenstance sidekick, Jeremy (or as he asks to be called with no reservation that it may be considered insulting, "Germs"). Sample brings us a lonely kid who willingly serves as a paid "lab rat", volunteering for mysterious medical science clinical trials which require that he wear a battery of magnets adhered to his chest and abdomen. He willingly does this to scratch out a living in the not so glam locale of L.A. in which he survives. But moreover, his main motivation lies in helping to fund the care, and ultimately the revitalization, of his ailing grandfather, who is slowly wasting away in a convalescent home. Jeremy is exceptionally compassionate, industrious, determined and ambitious. We know without question why we pull so hard for him to make it.
The female cast members are uniformly impressive in "Hunter Gatherer", but I submit that the remarkable work of Kellee Stewart as Nat stands out as perhaps the best among this gifted group. Nat is a woman who strolls the streets for a living, but clearly longs to find a nice guy to love and be cared for by so that she may walk away from turning tricks for good. Stewart is yet another natural talent to appreciate here, and she makes you ache almost as much as Nat does for better things.
Writer/Director Joshua Locy earns high praise as the uncommonly creative mind behind this indy stunner. Locy starts out as if he is going to take us on a largely quirky, kooky kind of cutesy little romp through an offbeat rom-com type of tale. But he isn't. For gradually, and almost without us even recognizing it is happening, his unusual story becomes one of crippling disappointment and desperation. Hardly the stuff of light and breezy fare. And a testament to the extraordinary vision of an artist whose voice deserves to, and SHOULD be, heard from often in the years to come.
Finally special recognition must be invested in the remarkable music which serves as consistent and powerful punctuation to the scenes and events in "Hunter Gatherer". Keegan DeWitt has composed a score that merges perfectly with the gradually changing tone inherent in this narrative. At first frisky and fun, like a cross between Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, the sound eventually becomes, along with the film's feel, more weighty, even grave, reminiscent of the most ominous instrumentation of Pink Floyd. Such diversity and depth is not easy to pull off by any musician. That DeWitt does so, and so expertly, is, again, wholly indicative of a true expert at his craft.
It may be a challenge to extract a theme from "Hunter Gatherer". It is so likely unlike anything else you've ever seen. Upon reflection the day after watching it now, I will bring this observation to the table. Ashley, while consumed with pursuing, with hunting, someone who didn't care about him in the slightest, never paused to realize that all the while there was a person who, while he did almost nothing to deserve it, had come, had gathered the capacity, to care about him. Significantly.
And so, in the end, it is left then for Ashley, and he alone, to try desperately to pick up the pieces of a viciously shattered soul.