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'Hellion' review: A gloomy, dazzling, and empathetic drama



"Hellion" will be released theatrically in Houston starting today.

Josh Wiggins as Jacob Wilson.
Josh Wiggins as Jacob Wilson.Photo courtesy of IFC Films, used with permission.
The official theatrical poster for "Hellion."
The official theatrical poster for "Hellion."Photo courtesy of IFC Films, used with permission.

Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins) is a thirteen-year-old that has been lashing out at the world ever since his mom passed away. Desperate for attention from his father Hollis (Aaron Paul), a man who has pushed his family out of his life and replaced it with alcohol, Jacob is constantly vandalizing private property, having run-ins with the law, and dragging his ten-year-old brother Wes (Deke Garner) into troublesome situations.

Jacob eventually takes the shenanigans with his friends too far as Child Protective Services takes Wes away to live with his aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). As Hollis attempts to sober up and be a better father, Jacob signs up for a national motocross race. Jacob sees winning the race as the only option of uniting his family once again.

Relating to what Jacob and Wes are put through in "Hellion" was fairly easy. While something similar didn't happen to myself, I grew up with cousins who did; a pair of brothers three years apart who also had a thing about dirt bikes and probably got into way more trouble than they should have. The relationships in "Hellion" feel very genuine because of it. Even Jacob's friends tease each other in ways that seem like these kids legitimately know each other quite well.

The drama heavily relies on characters taking responsibility for their actions during a time when the grieving process is still in full effect. While the worst seems to be behind the Wilson family, they still have issues coping with not only their loss but picking up the pieces of what remains of their lives.

Aaron Paul portrays a character that is far from perfect. Try as he might to do what's best for his family, Hollis still slips up from time to time. Hollis is almost completely withdrawn from the world around him as he buries his emotions from everyone including himself. This has to be one of the (if not the) most wholesome roles Juliette Lewis has ever taken on. Pam seems to only want what's best for Wes, but at the same time doesn't really think twice about separating a young boy from his father and brother.

"Hellion" puts this really interesting spin on delinquent behavior. You can't just walk away from your demons as it takes time and a hell of a lot of effort to change not only your habits but something dark you've become over the years.

Personally speaking, "Hellion" hits closer to home than expected and that's what makes it worthwhile. With gorgeous cinematography and an exceptional cast, including a breakout performance from Josh Wiggins, "Hellion" allows its audience to travel the downward spiral of a broken family and is absolutely gripping thanks to its authentic feel.