REVIEW: Hellion

14 06 2014

HellionRecently, the South has seen a bit of a revival at the cinema.  An emerging generation of filmmakers, headlined by Jeff Nichols and David Gordon Green, have found the region’s rich heritage to be fertile grounds for stories largely passed over by the coast-focused Hollywood.

With “Hellion,” the latest film in this resurgence, it’s time to start including writer/director Kat Candler in the discussion of prominent figures produced by the movement.  Her latest film far outshines both “Mud” and “Joe,” two similar Southern coming-of-age stories, with the raw authenticity of its landscape and the affecting emotional vulnerability of its characters.  The only complaint I can muster about the film is a selfish one: I just wish the film had been made when I was still a teenager.

Candler sets “Hellion” just outside of my native Houston, and her portrayal of the area and its residents is absolutely pitch-perfect.  I felt as if I knew the foul-mouthed troublemaking adolescents at the center of the film from my own childhood.  These are not just character sketches, either; they rang so uncannily familiar that the teens seemed like real people pulled from dusty corners of my memory.

Though I never knew a family with the particular struggles faced by the Wilsons in “Hellion,” Candler’s impeccable script quickly made me feel deeply and passionately about their well-being.  It’s the rare film these days that jolts me out of being merely a complicit spectator and makes me feel like a stakeholder in the events playing out before my eyes.  Watching the drama as Aaron Paul’s Hollis attempts to get his act together, or as Josh Wiggins’ Jacob lashes out to keep his family intact unleashed reactions in me that were not only physiological but also physical.

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