Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Dalton Sutton, Camron Owens, Dylan Cole, Walt Roberts, Annalee Jefferies
Written by: Kat Candler
Directed by: Kat Candler
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 94
Date: 06/13/2014

Hellion (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Acting Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The third feature by writer/director Kat Candler, Hellion is a sensitive, soulful character drama with great sympathy. It does not judge any of its characters. Jacob is first seen vandalizing a truck, Hollis is a drunk and neglects his kids, and Pam won't let Wes return to his father, but Candler understands each of them, their motivations, their worries, their fears, and their flaws, and they emerge as beautifully heartbreakingly human.

In a blue collar Texas town, 13 year-old Jacob (Josh Wiggins) has been getting into trouble lately, and this last time, his 10 year-old brother Wes (Deke Garner) unexpectedly tagged along. The boys' mother died recently, and their father Hollis Wilson (Aaron Paul) has not been handling it well. He has been drinking and spending time trying to fix up a beach house rather than being around. Jacob finds an outlet in motocross racing, but meanwhile the authorities take Wes away and place him with Hollis's sister-in-law, Pam (Juliette Lewis). Can this torn-up family ever find each other again?

Candler's filmmaking benefits from the strong small town, working class atmosphere, with its run-down, vacant lots and speed metal music. However, this approach also applies to her storytelling, which is a bit lax, and more reliant on moods than on logic. In spite of the honest, realistic characters, many scenes play out through happenstance; the movie could have been better shaped. But at the end, the performances, especially by newcomer Wiggins, are exceptionally strong, and it's hard not to be moved by these characters, their pain, and their love.

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