SXSW 2016: Indie film doesn’t get much better than ‘Hunter Gatherer’

Hunter Gatherer explores the idea that sometimes, no matter how much you hope or believe, love is just not enough. There is more to existence than love, though its power over us is unquestionably intoxicating, and for a brisk 85 minutes, filmmaker Joshua Locy offers two different yet interconnected stories about fate’s ability to prove our belief in love’s unwavering strength wrong.

Ashley Douglas (Andre Royo at his absolute best) has just been released from a three-year prison stint for a crime we do not know. He believes the world will see him as a man who has paid for his mistakes, but upon returning to his mother’s home he realizes that is not the case. His friends have moved on, his mother’s patience has worn thin and the love of his life, Linda (Ashley Wilkerson), is dating another man. Ashley tries to see the positivity in everything, but he cannot move on from Linda. She is his rock, at least in his mind, and he soon sets his sights on finding a way to win her back.

Soon after the reality of his situation begins to set in, Ashley befriends a young man by the name of Jeremy (George Sample III). Ashley convinces Jeremy to help him with some chores for his mother, and soon the two strike up an unusual friendship. Jeremy even introduces Ashley to his aunt, but though Ashley sleeps with her he still cannot shake his longing for Linda. Meanwhile Jeremy, who is currently making a living by allowing himself to be used for medical experiments, is trying to save his dying grandfather. Both Jeremy and his grandfather have a rare disease that effects their ability to breathe, and Jeremy spends the majority of the film trying to fix his grandfather’s homemade respirator in order to keep him alive. Like Ashley, Jeremy is determined to fight off the passing of time, and like his friend he doesn’t realize such efforts rarely, if ever, produce meaningful results.

What neither Ashley or Jeremy seem to realize is that, even when things seem like they couldn’t get worse, they still have each other. Ashley is more at fault in this respect than Jeremy, but both men hide their struggles from one another. They also don’t question the other’s motives. Ashley believes he needs Linda, and Jeremy is determined to save his grandfather. They both become so blinded by their pursuits that they lose themselves, as well as their connection, by believing they themselves have the ability to turn back the hands of time. Neither one is ready to face the world alone, but what they cannot understand is that they never have to because they now have one another.

Joshua Locy is probably best known for his work as Art Director for fellow filmmaker David Gordon Green, so it should come as no surprise that many elements of this film bring to mind the best parts of Green’s work. The story, while firmly rooted in reality, has surreal flourishes that make you question whether or not everything you have seen has transpired just as it was shown. Without giving too much away. the film’s final act features a few twists that are sure to leave audiences divided on the message of the film. Is Ashley in the wrong for wanting something he lost? Is Jeremy wrong for fighting to save his grandfather? I cannot tell you the answer, and Locy has no desire to tell you either. Viewers will take from the film what they want, and the fact Locy has made that possible without delivering an overly ambiguous finale is downright inspiring.

You should do everything in your power to see this film as soon as possible. Hunter Gatherer is the kind of film that turns average moviegoers into full-blown cinephiles. It’s a fully realized vision of a world that is not unlike our own, with strong performances across the board and gorgeous cinematography that makes even the most mundane events feel oddly beautiful. Joshua Locy has delivered an entirely original story that is not only entertaining in the moment, but one that also lingers in the mind long after the final frames have played. If more films were like this the world would be a better place, and hopefully Joshua Locy will create more like it in time. For now, Hunter Gatherer is a frontrunner for best indie film of 2016, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it managed to remain on that list for the rest of the year.