There are certain actors that are adored beyond any reasonable measure, and Andre Royo is one of them. Fans of The Wire found themselves rooting for his character Bubbles with reckless abandon. Royo’s charisma is on full display in Hunter Gatherer, an urban tale that takes expectations and flips them on their head.
Ashley (Royo) has just returned from years away in prison and finds his world has moved on without him. Ashley’s positivist attitude is undeterred, however, and he endeavors to find success and happiness through sheer force of will.
Early on he finds a companion in Jeremy (George Sample III), an earnest young man who is game for any and all of Ashley’s schemes. Jeremy is a bit of an odd bird – living with his grandfather in a retirement home, participating in medical experiments for cash, all while taking regular swimming lessons – but, thanks to relative newcomer Sample, is one of the most endearing characters at this year’s SXSW film festival.
The romantic end of things don’t go as well for Ashley, as his old girlfriend Linda (Ashley Wilkerson) isn’t interested in rekindling anything, no matter what he does. She’s hooked up with the garbage man, who appears to be a much more stable companion for her to make a future with. None of this stops Ashley from pursuing her in every way he can.
Ultimately, this film is about what’s not shown on screen as much as what is. Hunter Gatherer has a predominately African-American cast and is set in a poor neighborhood in a large city, but director Joshua Locy made the decision to avoid the stereotypes that almost always accompany such a story. He consciously stripped out sex, violence, cursing and anything else he thought would keep the picture from being a universal tale that relies on plot and character, not location and demographics. He succeeded wildly.
The filmmaking itself gets a little obtuse at times with avant garde crosscuts done in-camera over discordant tones, but the likeability of Royo and Martin keeps the film together even as surreality takes over as the story draws to a close. Hunter Gatherer does a great job painting a picture of a modern-day man undeterred by the obstacles in front of him; a story that can resonate with anyone.