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Sundance 2014: ‘Hellion’ a heart-breaking tale of a broken Texas family

January 22nd, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life, Opinion

By Katie Swain
Special from the Sundance Film Festival

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL—Director and writer Kat Candler got up to introduce the world premiere of her film “Hellion” on Friday at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and with tears in her eyes and a catch in her throat. “Sundance feels like home,” she said. “…and this cast and crew is like family.”

MV5BMTQwNDQwMTAzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzE4NTE1Nw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Candler’s simple declaration set the stage for the emotional and intense “Hellion,” which is all about finding and forgiving home and family.

Filmed on location in Texas, “Hellion” follows the story of recently widowed father of two Hollis Wilsons. One is played by Aaron Paul in a performance that is gruff and tortured and every bit as heart-breaking and emotional as the “Breaking Bad” Jesse Pinkman role he just completed. While Paul’s performance was breathtaking, the performance no one could stop talking about was 15-year-old Josh Wiggins in his breakout role as Jacob Wilson, Hollis’s eldest son.

Jacob Wilson, in response to his mother’s death and his father’s increasing inability to hold things together, begins acting out through vandalism and arson. When state officials decide that the Wilson home is not an appropriate place to raise a child, they take 10-year-old Wes from his father and 13-year-old brother, and place him in the hands of his aunt Pam.

Struggling to cope with the breakup of his family, Jacob turns to motocross as an emotional outlet.

Overcome with the grief of having their already broken family reduced again, both Jacob and Hollis fight to get Wes back and to forgive each other for the part they each played in his being taken away.

“[Jacob] is kind of a misunderstood kid and he does all these bad things, but he does have a good heart,” Wiggins said of his character in a Q&A session with the audience. But it wasn’t this declaration that convinced the viewers of the complexity of Jacob’s character; it was Wiggins’ intensely nuanced performance that showed better than words could have told how Jacob was a lot more than just a rebellious “juvie” kid.

Director Candler found Wiggins almost by accident when her friend, Summer Shelton, happened across the native Texan on YouTube. “It was kind of just something I had the opportunity to do,” Wiggins said.

7edacf1e38c32a430f9d0b47cf8cde18.cfAnd while the whole cast, crew and audience were completely blown away with his performance, Wiggins himself was very humble. He said the way he got into his character “had to do with everyone else’s performance, watching Aaron [Paul] and Juliette [Lewis], it made it really easy to give that performance.”

Walt Roberts, who plays a police officer in “Hellion,” seemed to agree with Wiggins that the synergy of the whole cast was what made the film.

“You’re only as good an actor as the actors you work with,” Roberts said. “When you think about film, you think about some of the great casts there have been.”

“I don’t know if that magic can be planned, or if it just happens, but I think there was a little bit of that magic in this case.”


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