IFFBoston: "Hellion" is a Well-Acted, Emotionally Complex Tale

Nicholas Franco ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Josh Wiggins in Hellion. Photo Credit: Lauren Logan/Sundance Institute.
Josh Wiggins in Hellion. Photo Credit: Lauren Logan/Sundance Institute.
Every once in a while a film will come out that truly captures the essence of realism in its characters and story; Hellion is one of those films.
Hellion chronicles the story of Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins), a thirteen year-old troublemaker with a passion for heavy metal and motocross. After frequent unacceptable behavior forces CPS to take Wes and place him under the supervision of his aunt, Jacob and his father Hollis must take responsibility for their actions and begin to turn their lives around in an attempt to bring Wes back home.
Easily one of the biggest strengths of Hellion is its earnest and simplistic tone. Writer/director Kat Candler impeccably crafts this tale in a way that makes it feel unnervingly realistic at points. The choice of cuts and use of score is sparse, allowing the audience to feel the weight of each moment these characters have to endure. As the film progresses, they become less and less like characters and more like individuals the audience is looking at through a lens.
By the time the third act begins, each tension-filled scene feels genuine as the film guides the audiences through an emotional roller coaster that consistently hits the emotional epicenter. However, due to the reliability of the story and how it builds and unfolds through the first two acts, certain portions in the middle seem to drag, even despite its short 98-minute runtime.
Aaron Paul in Hellion. Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Aaron Paul in Hellion. Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Luckily for this film, the performances are just as fantastic as the screenplay. Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame, is great as Hollis Wilson, a recently widowed and struggling father. Paul conveys each emotion and scene with gravitas and brings a genuine spirit to the character. Juliette Lewis and Deke Garner, although more minor characters, provide a sense of conflict and reliability, at points acting as the rational eyes and ears for the audience.
The standout here is Josh Wiggins, who, in his first film role, manages to turn in a fantastic performance that outshines all the others. Faultless in his ability to present these very personal and somewhat challenging emotions, Wiggins gives the audience a richly layered character that feels like someone everybody knew as a child. Wiggins absolutely owns the role of Jacob and commands the screen in every frame he’s in.
Hellion is an emotionally complex and riveting tale. Dealing with the idea of loss and the attempt to repair past mistakes, a beautifully written script and stellar acting pull the audience through an experience that as the film progresses feels more and more real.
Overall Grade: A-
The film opens on Friday July 25, 2014 at the Brattle Theater in Boston.

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