Mullan plays Hector, a homeless man in Glasgow, who lives on the motorways, keeping himself fed and clean via the motorway cafes and their toilets. He is embarking on his annual pilgrimage to London where a seasonal welcome awaits him at the homeless shelter he has been visiting every Christmas for several years and the young supervisor Sara (Sarah Solemani), who has known Hector since she was a callow volunteer, has saved him a place.
Writer/director Gavin was inspired to make the film by his experiences working as a volunteer with Crisis at Christmas and he’s used that knowledge to give us a sympathetic insight into the world of homeless people – not just the misery but the friendships and mutual support among members of the homeless community. This is not a documentary though but a human story.
Mullan as Hector is a sad, sometimes stroppy, but also likeable character, who intrigues and makes us eager to piece together the story of his past. His health is now at risk and this Christmas could be his last. So on his journey, Hector also attempts to make contact with the people he left behind in his past, when he walked out on his life some 15 years earlier, namely his initially unsympathetic brother in law (Stephen Tompkinson), who is trying to protect Hector’s sister (Gina McKee) and Ewan Stewart as his less prickly brother Peter.
There are no villains in this piece. A café owner gives Hector free tea, a delivery man “liberates” a warm jacket on his behalf. The struggle to survive and to deal with their own demons is villain enough for Hector and his companions.
Despite its ostensibly downbeat theme and treatment, this is ultimately a heartwarming tale somewhat different from the usual cinematic yuletide fare.
Review by Carol Allen