OUR Manchester Film Festival coverage continues with our film reporter Jamie Medwell’s Hunter Gatherer review.

First time director Joshua Locy pens a heartfelt love letter to the margins in this tale of two blindly optimistic men piecing together a friendship out of rags and tatters.

Ashley (Andre Royo), recently released from prison, returns to his old neighbourhood in Los Angeles seeking to rekindle his relationship with exasperated ex-girlfriend Linda.

Hoping to make a fast buck in the process, Ashley starts a fly-by-night fridge disposal business, when he meets sweet but hapless medical test subject Jeremy (George Sample III).

Jeremy’s quixotic mission to keep his ailing grandfather alive by fixing his broken respirator, chimes with Ashley’s own ambitions, and the two men strike up an easy friendship.

Taking advantage of Jeremy’s good nature, as well as his pickup truck and driver’s licence, Ashley drags his young friend into a series of ill-fated schemes, which eventually lead Ashley to confront the pain and calamity he has brought on those around him.

Hunter Gatherer could have easily lapsed into tiresome indie quirkiness, were it not for Locy’s direction.

At times joyful, at times melancholic, Locy’s film stays light on magic and heavy on realism, remaining believable throughout.

In fact, the characters’ inability to confront their reality makes the world they inhabit seem all the more real and affecting.

Locy refuses to pass judgement on his characters, accentuating Ashley’s charm and optimism but never shying away from his checkered past, or his present selfishness.

While Royo’s measured performance as Ashley channels the buoyancy and desperation he perfected in his role as Bubbles from The Wire, grounding the film’s eccentricity in sober reality.

At once an underdog tale, a realistic character study and an affecting tone poem, Hunter Gatherer is first and foremost a love letter to Los Angeles, and some of its most unfortunate and unloved inhabitants.

Telling a conventional tale, but telling it beautifully, the film, like its characters, dreams big and does a lot with a little.

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