14 June 2024

Film Review – Hoard (2023)

Grief will never heal over time,” we hear one of the characters say during Luna Carmoon’s Hoard. This is not only one of my favourite lines of the film, but also the perfect way to sump up what this movie represents. The sentence stuck with me the most throughout the movie in a product that stands out for its script-writing in particular. While this is not the first time a film touches on grief, Carmoon’s film is a profound and honest study of grief unlike many I have seen on the big screen.

Set between the 1980s and 1990s in the United Kingdom. At the beginning, we see a young Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) and her relationship with her mother Cynthia (Hayley Squires), a hoarder who accumulates a significant amount of various objects in their house. Many years later after Cynthia’s death, a teenager Maria (Saura Lightfoot Leon) lives with her foster mother Michelle (Samantha Spiro). A meeting with Michael (Joseph Quinn), a former foster child in the same home, prompts her to revisit the childhood memories she has repressed until now.

I particularly enjoyed the production design of the film. This is especially true in the first half of the movie when we see Maria’s childhood home where she lived with her mother. As Cynthia is a hoarder, the setting is really important for the overall plot of the movie and to immerse the audience into its setting and, eventually, into Maria’s memories, which it does beautifully and with incredible care for every detail. In particular, I loved the way the film created the atmosphere of Maria’s childhood Production design in her childhood home is particularly interesting with the Christmas lights during the festive season that creates a beautiful lighting effect in those scenes.

Narratively, the first act is the strongest and most heartbreaking part of the film with the clearest direction and intent for the overall movie and the best storytelling overall. While the other two acts are not as powerful – the film does seem to get lost on the way and a little confused in its writing, it does eventually pay off with the circular finale at the end of the film. The inciting incident of Cynthia being a hoarder is also fascinating as it is something many people in the audience may have not heard about before watching the movie.

Overall, I wish the film focused more on Maria’s grief and journey of self-growth as well as on the mother-daughter relationship, both of which were my favourite elements of the entire movie – rather than on the morally grey and dubious love story. Similarly, the plotline involving Maria’s friend and her own family was particularly interesting to watch and I also hoped the movie would focus on that a little bit more. Instead, it remains a secondary storyline throughout the whole film and is never fully explored.

Hoard is a film that is probably meant to make us uncomfortable as we go on this journey with the main character. This is especially true in regards to the main relationship that we see in the movie, as it develops we are forced to sit through some scenes that are incredibly hard to watch, despite being filmed excellently from a technical point of view. I wish Carmoon’s movie would have leaned into this even more and fully explored the awkwardness and discomfort of this relationship in order to fully lean into its complexities rather than leaving so much unsaid when the film ends.

Overall, this is a great directorial debut from Carmoon and I am excited to see her future directorial projects as she has proven herself to be a visionary director with a unique and striking visual style that stayed with me long after the movie ended.

In UK cinemas on 17th May / Saura Lightfoot Leon, Samantha Spiro, Joseph Quinn/ Dir: Luna Carmoon/ Vertigo Releasing/ 18

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