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'Hoard' Review: It’s gritty, sad and wildly unique


In a time where remakes, sequels and franchises seem to dominate the release calendar, independent films with unique stories are needed more than ever. After Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun and Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper, the boom of British newcomers continues into 2024.

A directorial feature debut from British screenwriter and director Luna Carmoon, Hoard premiered at Venice International Film Festival last year. With a distinct way of telling its story, complex themes explored with great depth and an animalistic, visceral style running through its veins, Hoard is bound to divide viewers yet leave a lasting impact on all. It’s gritty, sad and wildly unique.


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.


There is one word that will be used to described Hoard in the coming days - weird. From the tale it’s telling to the way it chooses to tell it, Hoard is by no means a by-the-numbers affair. This is a completely original story with a tone and style all of its own, making it stand out as a release to pay attention to. The best thing about this is its weirdness, how it refuses to fit into a box and how it dares to be different. Though not all viewers will appreciate what it’s going for, all will undeniably find it memorable.

One visual element Carmoon chooses to heavily focus on is rubbish; as the title suggests, one of our main characters is a hoarder, and this motif is prevalent throughout the run-time. Carmoon manages to create a slimy, sticky and grimy film that will leave you wanting to take a hot shower afterwards. With bodily fluids, dead animals and stinking binbags, she perfectly creates an uncomfortable, tense and unsettling atmosphere, forcing us to live in this world alongside our characters. Uncomfortably immersive, Hoard is a masterclass in invoking a feeling unto the audience, creating a tone that’s both magnetic and disgusting all at once.


Of course, these grim visuals aren’t just there for shock factor - if you’re willing to rummage through the trash, you’ll find a lot of themes to unpack and explore. The main focus Hoard takes is on memories; how prevalent they can be, how important they are and how they can control the way we see the world. Our main character Maria is in a foster home after an event causes her to be taken from her hoarder Mother, and despite it being years ago that she was living in this environment with the chaotic yet loving Cynthia, she sees reminders everywhere and is immediately taken back to those moments. Whether it’s by a person, a smell or a feeling, these triggers are all around us. This also highlights how our childhood shapes us, as well as how easy it is to revert back to habits that bring such comfort.

Hoard also explores grief with great care and attention, putting a magnifying glass on the impact and effect of loss. It also dares to delve into sexual awakenings, mental health, the difficulties of being a teenager, and most importantly, through our two leads we get a glimpse of life in the system and growing up in care, without the love of our parents. There are multiple themes explored here, but none go undercooked. Every sequence is packed full of meaning and emotion.

It takes tremendous on-screen talent to carry this daring, visceral script, but luckily our cast are up to the task. Saura Lightfoot Leon gives one of the most astonishing, chilling performances of the year as Maria, a teenager living in a foster home who is bogged down by memories of the past, grief and her inability to fit in. Starring opposite is Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things), and the pair are just magnificent together. Both playing characters who are lost in the world, craving understanding and have had a tricky upbringing, their uncomfortable but understandable bond is one of the highlights of the film. They may not be good for each other but it’s plain to see why they’re drawn together; Lightfoot Leon and Quinn display this beautifully. From dining room food fights to animalistic growling, it’s hard to take your eyes off the pair.


In the role of hoarder Cynthia is Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake), who is fully allowed to do what she does best here. Her mental health is clearly at an all time low, but her love for her daughter jumps off the screen. It’s just the two of them, and no-one is around to tell Cynthia that she can’t bring her daughter up in this environment. Squires is complex and heartbreaking in her portrayal of a woman with a lot of love to give, who just needs some help. Finally, playing Maria’s best friend Laraib is Deba Hekmat, who is hilariously intoxicating and fantastic. Maria is definitely at her happiest and most herself when she’s around, and the pair’s friendship with its naughtiest backdrop is delightfully nostalgic.

The biggest downfall is likely its length. Though this shouldn’t put people off seeing it in cinemas, Hoard doesn’t need to be over two hours long and feels slow in places as a result. That being said, it does utilise every second of its run-time, thoroughly exploring its themes, developing the characters and bringing this real-feeling story to life.

Hoard is a unique, unsettling and strange coming-of-age story with a difference. The performances are fantastic, the tone is all-consuming and though it won’t be for everyone, the audience it is for will fall in love with it. Hoard is filthy, imaginative and one of the most memorable, arresting films of the year.


Hoard Rating

Hoard is out in UK & Irish cinemas May 17


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