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TIFF 2020 Review: Holler

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A female high school student steals scrap metal with her older brother in an effort to pay for her college education.

Running with a full garbage bags in each hand, a teenage girl heads toward a waiting pickup truck driven by her brother; the two siblings cash in their stolen discarded cans but are barely getting by financially with an eviction noticed being posted on the front door of the family home.  It turns out that the sister has been accepted in college; however, she cannot afford the tuition so goes about selling scrap metal on the side which puts her into conflict with a regular buyer.

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If one was to pitch the story it would be best described as Winter’s Bone set in a desolate industrial town.  Jessica Barden is convincing as Ruth who is trying to break the shackles of poverty, and an addicted and incarnated mother but feels thwarted every step of the way; a constant source of companionship and support is provided by her brother Blaze portrayed by Gus Harper.  The onscreen dynamic between Barden and Harper is believable and contributes a sense of hope amongst all of the despair.  Another noteworthy performance is family friend Linda played by Becky Ann Baker with a heart of gold.

A shaky handheld approach creates an impression of scenes occurring in the moment but gets distracting at times.  The desaturated colour pallet emphasizes the desolate winter surroundings while also causing the nighttime imagery to get murky.  What usually tends to be difficult is coming up with a satisfying conclusion and full marks to filmmaker Nicole Riegel in being able to do so in her feature directorial debut.  It is hard not be as amused as Blaze as he has a certain revelation which is revealed to be true in a series of crosscuts.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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