It’s unfortunate that this film had to go up against Boyhood. That 12-years-in-the-making, coming-of-age colossus is my most anticipated movie of the summer, and it comes out the same weekend as Hellion, which is also a film about growing up. It’s also unfortunate that Hellion is a bit hit-or-miss.
The first thing you’ll recognize in the film, written and directed by Kat Candler, is Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who plays Hollis. He’s a heartbroken, alcoholic father of two boys and he can’t get over the loss of his wife. Paul, whose voice is as gravelly as ever and whose eyes still burn with his signature, frantic madness, spends most of the film moping about, pushing away those who are trying to help him. And by help him I mean: take his youngest son away.
These boys, and their brother-to-brother relationship, is the nucleus of the film. The younger one (Deke Garner) just radiates an aspect of youthful intelligence and good nature. He even, somewhat unbelievably, reads classic literature for fun. His older brother, Jacob (Josh Wiggins), couldn’t be more different. Dirt biking, heavy metal and lighting things on fire are his only true loves. We find him early on as his little brother’s parent/friend, as their dad spends most days drinking. While Jacob means well, he just doesn’t make good choices. He’s a kid, after all, and the other adults in the film fear that his influence over his kid brother will turn the angel child into a little Lucifer.
The plot unravels slowly, and the music, more than anything, pushes it along. At one minute, it’s ambient, introspective. The next it’s guitar solos and distortion. Jacob and his dad seem to be caught between those two extremes. They are either lashing out in tearful anger, or curling up in self-loathing despair. But Wiggins has trouble pulling off this back-and-forth swing. Not even the music can carry the kid’s performance. To be fair, this is his first film, and he’s not out-and-out bad. It’s just that he can’t quite carry the movie on his face.
Hellion is playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.