Hoard  (18) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Luna Carmoon, UK, 2023, 126 mins

Cast:  Hayley Squires, Saura Lightfoot Leon, Joseph Quinn, Samantha Spiro, Lily-Beau Leach

Review by Carol Allen

This is a very strange and often disturbing film about mental illness.

Little Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) and her manic mother Cynthia (Hayley Squires) go out at night with a shopping trolley rifling dustbins and rubbish dumps for what we see as rubbish, they see as treasure.  Silver foil, fabrics, paper, whatever appeals to them. The house is full of it.  It stinks.  Then one day the piles of rubbish collapse onto Cynthia.  We presume she dies.

Maria is taken into care and raised by a loving and experienced foster mother Michelle (Samantha Spiro).  Maria is still with her when she reaches the verge of adulthood and now played by Saura Lightfoot Leon.

One of Michelle’s former foster children, Michael (Joseph Quinn) comes back to live in the house.   Something about him connects in Maria’s mind with her childhood and the two are drawn into a sexually intense relationship fuelled by weird games as the two of them are taken psychologically back into the hoarding world of Maria’s past.

There are sometimes gaps in the narrative flow of the story but the acting is first class.   For her first feature film writer/director Luna Carmoon has found a superb cast.  Squires is brilliant as the manic Cynthia, whose relationship with her child is unhealthy but also great fun and very loving.  Leach as young Maria is a beautiful and aware little girl and comparative newcomer Lightfoot Leon as adult Maria is mercurial, unpredictable and pretty charismatic.  Spiro gives a strong performance as her sometimes puzzled but always reliable foster mum.

The film is often puzzling and sometimes irritating but it is also mesmerising as a first hand experience and insight into the often chaotic world of mental illness.