Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"Hoard goes further, creeps around, becomes something you can start to smell, to taste."

Coming out of its screening at Glasgow's 2024 film festival, I saw a ticket for Hoard lying on Rose Street. Of course I picked it up. My own ticket is in either the short-term or long-term tins in which all my cinema passes are kept, a collection that spans 30-odd years and several thousand miles. One thing is a thing itself, two or more a trend perhaps, but at a certain point enough things become a thing themselves, however labelled.

My treasure though, apt in source and deed, pinned on a cork-board in my hall by the kitchen. Nested among a packet of Pokémon cards for a younger sibling's child, a delivery receipt with a good number on it, some badges, some stickers (stuck and as yet unstuck), a bit of council tax paperwork, a sign I made for another younger sibling's child's birthday party last year, a collage of things of which, and things for people of whom, I am fond. That list is not exhaustive but for some it would prove exhausting, a splash of noise and colour that is potentially, variably, a source of and solace to distress.

Copy picture

A treasure whose finding and keeping is, like the film, wrapped (and rapt) in detail. Hoard looks like few other films. Cinematographer Nanu Segal's done some previous work I've seen but in service to Luna Carmoon who writes/directs it becomes something transporting.

There's a moment of transition between the young Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) and her nearly-adult self (Saura Lightfoot-Leon) that is so light and assured that it feels like a magic trick, a sleight of screen so deft and confident that it feels improbable that it's a début feature. Across two hours and change and a story that spans about a decade, it is so compelling and constructed that I was surprised when checking its running time. I did not notice it, buried in an accretion of detail and performance that speaks to quality and aspiration.

I write my notes in screenings in a particular brand and make of notepad, at least when things work out, but stapled products of improvisation and scribbles and scrawls sit among the full ones in a drawer that holds little else. A torch of course, one muted with electrical tape and cut-up 3-D glasses, blank notepads of the same type, the fragmented and frayed hulks of year upon year of review. The other notepads tried and eventually rejected, not to be confused or intermingled with other notepads again for other purposes, including those still sitting waiting for inspiration and inclination to strike, or the ones saved 'for best', and so on. I say this to try to put context in context, that bits of Hoard spoke to me as a fan of cinema but others to me as a person. It is a standing joke that every festival I go to gives me a film about a teenage girl coming of age, but the humour there is not because these are not stories worth telling. I am (increasingly) bald, bluff, bearded, but if this 'genre' didn't speak to me that would be because I was not listening. Hoard should be a title that pricks one's ears up.

Film has a texture of its own, and there's a grain that dates and places certain moments. Good films develop something further, a pattern, a heft. Great films reach the point of tactility, where you can feel them envelop you. Hoard goes further, creeps around, becomes something you can start to smell, to taste. I caught the start of Videodrome on the upper reaches of my television the other night and was minded of Hoard because of how well drawn Max Renn's apartment was, the space where Harlan works, Nicki's search for sensation, her presence in studios television, radio, apartment. The flesh and clay there are glitter and glue here, damp paper in plastic bags, an intensity. I've been in cinemas where audiences winced in unison, where discomfort made every chair a spiral, where dread has chilled more effectively than any HVAC system.

Hoard builds its unease from small moments in ever thicker layers. Dunes are only grains of sand, Jaws are only bones and teeth, a Spider mostly legs. At a certain point any collection of things becomes something new, and worth labelling. That's true in Hoard too, Maria (in both strong performances) caught on the edge (twice) of childhood, in the gaps in systems, in life. Repeated enough, the absence of things becomes something new, and worth labelling.

In light, smear, tone, colour, taste, Hoard is doubly a period piece and memory decaying. It feels real, like accretion under an untrimmed fingernail. It's most striking moments are visceral, horrific, but they are in their own way buried in drifts of glamour and grime and grim recognition. Supplementary performances are strong too but the two Marias are full of grace, to be hailed as stand-outs in a film that carries the whiff of quality. There are so many things I loved about Hoard that repeatedly, they become something new, and worth labelling.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2024
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Hoard packshot
1984, London: Seven-year-old Maria and her mother live in their own loving world built on sorting through bins and collecting shiny rubbish. One night, their world falls apart, and we join Maria a decade later, living with her foster mother.
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Director: Luna Carmoon

Writer: Luna Carmoon

Starring: Saura Lightfoot Leon, Joseph Quinn, Hayley Squires, Deba Hekmat, Cathy Tyson

Year: 2023

Runtime: 126 minutes

Country: UK

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