Location as Character in ‘God’s Pocket’

Watching God’s Pocket (2014) – co-written and directed by John Slattery and starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman – thinking particularly about the role the location of God’s Pocket plays in the film. Here are some initial impressions:

The location of God’s Pocket permeates every single shot of the film. The whole place feels dirty, run-down and oppressive. It feels like it’s caught somewhere in the past, in some grim time-warp. There seem to be rules to the place, a certain way of life that (as is pointed out on more than one occasion during the film) ‘outsiders’ could never understand. There’s a lawlessness which seems to generally be accepted as part of the way of life for that particular place.

Yet despite everything, the people who live there seem to love the place, including the reporter played by Richard Jenkins, who writes pieces for the local newspaper declaring his love for the city, but yet going about life as though the whole place is grinding him down.

In these ways, the city itself plays an antagonistic character in its own right, keeping the inhabitants of the city locked inside of it, with little help of getting out once they’re in there. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character is a prime example of this – he didn’t come from the city, but now he’s within those walls, despite not being accepted by everyone, he’s become a part of the way of life in that place and is unlikely to be able to ever break free.

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