Hellion is about many things. It is about love, family, victims of circumstance, addiction, loss, masculinity and crime. Directed by Kat Candler, this is one of the most moving films I’ve seen this year. A coming-of-age tale about the tragedy of loving but being unable to provide, Hellion is an absolute triumph. Set in the broken home of thirteen year old Jacob, there is much love but little protection available for a child entering his teenage years with a history of criminal behaviour. Jacob resides with his often absent Father who wants to protect his children but doesn’t have the knowledge or resources to do so. His alcohol problem and distant manner has made his oldest son lonely, angry and lost. Where Jacob seems set for a life in institutions and prison, there is more hope for his younger brother Wes who still maintains an innocence of childhood that Jacob has long since lost. When social services remove Wes from the home it forces Jacob and his father to communicate with and confront one another in order to bring their youngest back into their care. Jacob wants to protect Wes, unaware that he brings him into more danger. Like his father, Jacob loves Wes which blinds him when it comes to seeing what is right for the one child who could be rescued from their situation.
Aaron Paul, best known for his key role in the smash-hit TV show Breaking Bad, gives an astonishing performance as Hollis, a father, an alcoholic and a grieving widower. The family are desperately missing the maternal figure to keep them together and, without her, everything is crumbling around Hollis and the boys. Paul communicates so much of his character through the eyes. He is closed off and barricaded in; desperate to be a Father but still punishing himself for his prior abandonment of his children. As the story progresses as does Hollis’ desire to do what is right. We root for a man so bruised and broken and it is Paul’s masterful acting that makes our hearts break for him. The film contains an abundance of strong performances from a teenage and child cast. Nothing is sugar-coated or cleaned up. It is refreshing and tragic to see young men growing up in such chaos, trying so desperately to be adult in a world they can’t understand. It is Jacob who is the film’s greatest victim. Josh Wiggins, in his first ever film role, is mesmerising. As the film reaches its finale he is so believable and so deeply woven into Jacob as a character that he brought huge tears to my eyes in a portrayal of a young man so angry at the world; helpless and afraid. Juliette Lewis is always so underrated and here she is as brilliant as ever. Her chemistry with Paul in particular makes for intense viewing. Hellion is undoubtedly the best yet that I’ve experienced at Edinburgh Film Festival and may just be one of the best I’ve seen all year. I’ll be shocked if this isn’t in my top five of the year in six months time. Hellion is a sad but truthful depiction of a family home broken by grief and plagued by demons.
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