From his dapper appearance and his suave sensibilities, you’d never guess that Mark Reay is homeless in NYC. Using a YMCA locker room as his bathroom and personal storage system, Mark is able to blend seamlessly into the upper echelon of New York’s fashion and film business. As a former model, he hustles the streets of Manhattan as a photographer and smooth talker. Genuinely talented and extremely good looking, Mark’s adaptability to his circumstances is astounding and certainly commendable. He lives in secret on a friend’s rooftop, enduring the changing weather and fearing, each night, that he may be found out and forced to find somewhere else to survive the nights. He lives off his extraordinary photography skills, acting residuals, and his uncanny ability to cold approach beautiful women, for both personal and professional rewards.
HOMME LESS follows Mark’s ventures as he narrowly eludes the total collapse of the very existence he has built for himself. His emotional highs and lows drive the heart of this doc. As New Yorkers, we most definitely have a built up image of what it means to look homeless. It’s the man in the subway station that wreaks of urine, is dirty, and oftentimes muttering to himself, or yelling incoherently on a street corner. Mark is the penultimate opposite of these images. Clean cut, eloquent, genuine, resourceful. You route for him at each turn as we tag along on his day to day routine, using every networking trick known to man. I would hang out with Mark in a heartbeat. He is optimistic, as much as any one man can be facing his current situation. I admire the hell out of him.
Director, Thomas Wirthensohn, has been friends with Mark for 20 years, since their modeling days back in Europe. When the two reconnected over drinks, Thomas had no idea that Mark was homeless. The two decided to take a new journey together in making this fascinating documentary. Wirthensohn is very careful to stay at arm’s length, which must have been extra difficult already being so emotionally invested in his subject. One of the toughest things you hear from documentary filmmakers is the challenge they face in trying to stay objective. There are quite a few moments in the film that directly address this issue and I commend Wirthensohn for his efforts.
HOMME LESS is a beautifully shot portrait of one man’s journey to not only survive, but thrive, in this big city. As someone who has lived here on and off since college, I can only imagine having to do what Mark does on the daily. Living paycheck to paycheck takes on a whole new meaning in this film. I highly recommend you catch this documentary this weekend. It will rattle around in your brain and, if you happen to live in NYC, make you wonder if you’ll run into Mark any day soon. It would be my pleasure to buy him dinner and a drink… and then book him for new headshots.
Synopsis: HOMME LESS is about the underbelly of the American Dream, the hidden backyard of our society. Mark’s life stands as a metaphor for the struggle of the vanishing middle class in America. But it’s also a film about the relationship between New York City and one of its residents. New York is not simply a beautiful backdrop for this story. She’s the antagonist that dictates the direction Mark’s life is going in. The joy and pain, the love and hate, the success and denial New York is teasing him with, the hardship he is going through in order to stay in her grace and the inventiveness he comes up with to be with her are all unique.
HOMME LESS captures a raw and unfiltered moment in time, our time, and raises the question of how far are we from losing everything, even our homes? How often do we have to pretend that everything is fine in order to keep up the facade of being a well-off member of society? And how far do we go to take the financial pressure off our shoulders to live a more carefree life, a life we aspire to live?
What went wrong in Mark’s life? How is he able to keep up his facade of success and fool everyone? What keeps him from going under? What motivates him to put up with this rather unthinkable situation? What were and are his hopes and desires in life?
Mark stands lost and alone in the midst of eight million dreams, balanced between the glamorous surfaces of this vibrant and inspiring city and its far from glamorous hidden backyard. He is the HOMME LESS.
Opening at the IFC Center on August 7th