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Director Clay Riley Hassler’s compassion for his characters is evident, and his micro-budgeted debut feature, shot partly in a homeless shelter among its residents, builds a naturalistic portrait of society’s lowest economic rungs. Its well-observed moments can be astounding in the understated and double-edged way they cut to the core.
The Hollywood Reporter
With wintry, cool cinematography, and sullen environments, HOMELESS has a look and feel that really drag you into the world in which it is set, whether you’re comfortable there or not. Fans of dark dramas, character pieces, and mumble-core style films are sure to be enamored by HOMELESS: a successful feature debut from a director to watch in Clay Riley Hassler.
Way Too Indie
Hassler’s film masterfully portrays how both bad choices and infrastructural roadblocks combine to make the crawl away from poverty painfully slow and precariously uncertain.
Based on a real life story, made on a shoe string budget, debut director Clay Riley Hassler manages to truly portray a sense of what being homeless is like. With heartbreaking honesty, we are pulled into a world in which it is set. But despite the stark realism, HOMELESS is a tender story, told in quiet yet deep beats that slowly pierce our hearts.
Woodstock Film Festival
With its haunting score, gritty look, and fine performances, HOMELESS never feels contrived and is American neorealism at its best.
Florida Film Festival
Although it is fictional, it is just as true of an experience as a documentary might be.
Newcomer Michael McDowell gives a remarkably sensitive and compelling performance.
You can’t invoke two-time Palme d’Or winners and not expect some eye-rolling. And I’m not claiming that Hassler is the Dardennes’ equal in writing, but this is an awfully impressive debut, one that deserves to be seen.
HOMELESS has a raw, neo-realist authenticity reminiscent of the work of Ramin Bahrani or Sean Baker. It hums with a powerful energy, lyrically chronicling the plight of society’s forgotten and overlooked without feeling forced or exploitative.
From The Front Row
The authenticity it brings separates HOMELESS from Hollywood “indies” like Joe Wright’s The Soloist. Most vagrants aren’t lucky enough to have Robert Downey Jr. for a guardian angel.
Verite Film Magazine
Filmed in a real homeless shelter with real homeless people sounds queasily like a sideshow come-on, but Clay Riley Hassler’s affecting feature debut is nothing of the kind. Thanks to the actors and Hassler and Anna Field’s script, we understand why the characters make the choices they do — even when we bitterly hope they’ll choose differently.
This story follows a similar story to Time Out Of Mind, with a protagonist stuck in a cycle of poverty and insecurity. But it may actually feel more believable if only for the fact it’s cast with a convincing first-time actor in Michael McDowell.
HOMELESS employs a direct cinema approach to great effect.
RiverRun International Film Festival