“Hellion” offers an enigmatic experience, having been made with conviction but still coming up short in terms of selling the audience on the endeavor as a whole.
The performances in Kat Candler’s film are first-rate. Aaron Paul leaves “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Pinkman behind as distant Texas father Hollis Wilson, while newcomer Josh Wiggins, as his troubled son Jacob, offers a heartrending mix of sadness and anger.
The Texas-set movie explores the dissolution of their family in the wake of the death of Jacob’s mom and Child Protective Services’ decision to take away youngest son Wes (Deke Garner) because of Hollis’ neglect.
There’s a real sense of loss throughout that is amplified by the characters’ isolation from one another, the interplay between their loneliness and the wide-open Texas expanse and the constant sense that Jacob is heading toward a destructive end.
The movie often feels forced, though, as if it’s conforming to Candler’s vision of what it should be rather than the realities suggested by the story and the performances. There are some unfortunate clichés — especially Jacob’s passion for dirt bike riding — and a perfunctory sensibility that keeps things at arm’s length. There’s passion to spare, but not enough to make it seem like this stuff really matters.
Directed by Kat Candler | Starring Aaron Paul, Josh Wiggins, Juliette Lewis | Not Rated | Playing at IFC Center and on VOD