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Hoard (Film Review)

3 min read

Image: Vertigo Releasing

With her two short films, 2018's Nosebleed and 2020's Shagbands writer and director Luna Carmoon has shown a refreshing confidence of vision and tone. Whether it's the poisonous dynamics of girl-best-friends in Nosebleed or the toxicity of the mid-late 2000s ‘shagband' craze, Carmoon seems remarkably assured when it comes to capturing the growing pains of adolescent girls. Her debut feature Hoard is another twisted coming-of-age tale that shifts in bold and daring ways

Set initially during the late 1980s, Maria (Lily-Beau Leach) lives with her eccentric mother, trawling the streets together for anything and everything, like magpies adding to their nest. But Cynthia (Hayley Squires) is not well, and her passionate love for her daughter manifests itself as an obsession that's comforting yet suffocating. Her intense desire to scavenge, hoard and nest eventually leads to an accident that separates the two, and the film skips forward in time to the tail end of Maria's school years. On the cusp of adulthood, Maria (now played by a languid, unruly Saura Lightfoot-Leon) has lived her formative teenage years under the stewardship of her guardian Michelle (Samantha Spiro), whose motherly instincts have had a stabilising effect.

As the structure of school gives way to lazy 90s summer days set to the music of Baby D and Inner City — Carmoon is an absolute master of music already — Maria's mostly harmless antics with her best friend Laraib (Deba Hekmat) give way to subtle signs of unravelling. As Maria flirts with a young man in the local pub whilst playing snooker, the smell of the cue chalk sends her into a daze. A reminder of the chunks of playground chalk her mother collected for her as a gift.

As a result of their late night escapades, Laraib finds herself sent away for the summer by her strict father, and Maria's world begins to spiral with the addition of the returning Michael (Joseph Quinn), a former foster child of Michelle's who comes to stay for a few months. The pair enter a toxic, psycho-sexual relationship that feels rooted in the dysfunction of their respective upbringings. Their dynamic – all bubbling sexual tension and base impulses – threatens to blow up the stability each has found – and even the film itself. Carmoon goes full art-student-film experimentalism in a sizeable chunk of the film that feels like it's stretching for Ducournau-type levels of squirm.

Thankfully, Hoard‘s scuzzy fury settles into something far more touching, with the film proving to be a thought-provoking mediation on grief, childhood and personal growth. Both newcomer Lightfoot-Leon and Quinn are terrific as tortured souls seemingly at the whim of impulses they can't quite understand. During the end credits, Squires reappears in her role as Maria's biological mother in a scene that's eventually cut to feature a brief clip of Carmoon's own grandmother. It's a personal story that apparently started out as a parting gift to the world during an episode of deep isolation for the filmmaker during the pandemic. At times it feels a little like Aftersun‘s grubby twin. And though the more challenging parts of the film will prove divisive, the confidence of its filmmaking never feels in doubt. Carmoon is pure homegrown talent.

Hoard is released in cinemas on May 17.