Hellion. The reality of broken dreams
Hellion, written and directed by Kat Candler, is the type of film that draws you into the dismal reality of broken dreams.
For the Wilson family, it is an especially sad situation. Hollis Wilson (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) cannot lift himself from his grief over his wife’s death and his alcoholism. As a result, he is unable to care for his two sons, Wes (Deke Garner) - 10 and Jacob (Josh Higgins) - 13, who is a “hellion.” This family’s story crushes our often misguided belief that we all can somehow overcome and wrong turns taken in life. Sometimes we can, but it isn’t easy. The Wilson family’s situation is quite bleak, and try as they may to fix it, it never happens.
The setting in this film really helps to convey this message by creating a visual “hell” as the backdrop for the family’s struggles. The depressed Southwest Texas landscape, with its slow economy and refineries like former battlegrounds. It’s hot, dry, and barren, mimicking the landscapes of the family’s minds.
At the same time, the use of sunlight and the warmth it creates spreads a reassuring comfort throughout the film that this family does have hope... their dreams could be answered; they just might make it. The cinematographer’s play between light/warmth and darkness/desolation works well thematically and is authentic, drawing us into the story with these characters. All along, each character must face his/her personal hell.
What works equally well in this film is the dialogue. Ms. Candler wrote a solid script where great characters leap out at us, creating realistic, believable dialogue and battling for what they want. We really begin to understand these characters through what they say to one another… and what they don’t. Candler is a master at subtext.
Lastly, the ending to this film is ambiguous, but this makes the film even stronger. Will the Wilsons make it? Is Jacob going to change his ways? Will Hollis step up? What is going to happen to Wes, now and in the future? While it is fairly evident that there is no way but down for the family, there’s also an element of hope and possibility. After all, isn’t that what life is truly like - even in its darkest, bleakest, or most challenging moments? It is refreshing to see this message portrayed in the film, especially amidst society’s challenging times.