Hellion

Reviewed for The Skinny as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014:

Hellion is a low-key family drama that explores grief and responsibility. Former Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul features as Hollis, a boozy single parent who’s been absent — both emotionally and physically — since the death of his wife. The film’s title, however, refers to Hollis’s son Jacob (Josh Wiggins), an angry 13-year-old whose delinquent behaviour has left him one incident away from juvenile detention. As a result of the former’s absence and the latter’s behaviour, Child Services decide to take Jacob’s impressionable younger brother (Deke Garner) and place him in the custody of their well-adjusted aunt (Juliette Lewis).

What follows is familiar indie fare, but writer-director Kat Candler renders the story — which is an expansion of her own six-minute short — with an arresting sense of authenticity and naturalism. Admittedly, the narrative is a little on the shapeless side, and a pivotal third act sequence feels like it belongs in a less believable film. But the performances are strong enough to paper over the cracks, with a bushy-bearded Paul delivering a typically affecting display of internal anguish, while newcomer Wiggins offers an impressive debut as the young troublemaker.