The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
Set in Beaufort, Texas, on the Gulf Coast, “Hellion” is the story of a troubled 13-year old boy obsessed with motocross, vandalism and arson. On parole after a conviction in juvenile court for torching a house, Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins) seeks redemption of sorts through training for a dirt-bike race, but he has a problem with corners. His bike, it seems, wants to keep going straight whenever he wants to turn.
As it happens, the movie has the same difficulty.
Written and directed by Kat Candler, “Hellion” is a family drama that keeps plunging ahead into darkness without ever turning a corner. At the start of the movie, Jacob’s widowed, alcoholic father, Hollis (Aaron Paul), is already a paragon of irresponsibility. But now Jacob’s 10-year-old brother, Wes (Deke Garner), has been removed from the family’s home by child protective services into the custody of Hollis’s sister-in-law (Juliette Lewis), who plans to move with the kid to Houston. Introduce a gun into the mix — along with one particularly unsavory and unstable friend of Jacob’s — and you have a recipe for tragedy.
If only someone — I’m looking at you, Dad — would come to his senses.
In another movie, perhaps, that’s what would happen. Hollis would quit drinking, perhaps only after hitting rock bottom, but then he’d clean up his act. He’d become the father he professes to want to be, and he’d take the necessary steps to regain custody of Wes and to repair the broken bond with Jacob, who has never forgiven his father for abandoning the family some time earlier.
But that’s the movies. With its shaky, hand-held aesthetic and relentlessly bleak story arc, “Hellion” is aiming for something that looks a lot more like life than melodrama. It hits the target, squarely. And the cast is sterling. But the story is a tough, hard ride.
Why motocross? Who knows. The race that Jacob wants to win has no prize money that will buy someone’s cancer treatment or put a down payment on a new house. It’s the gesture that’s important to Jacob, that’s all. “The whole town’s gonna see it,” he says.
In some ways, the movie is about the failure of empty gesture over action. Hollis talks about being a father, without acting like one. There’s a sense of gathering doom that builds from the get-go and never lets up.
It’s a tough, uncompromising little film. It’s hard to watch, even unpleasant at times, but not without reward, in the form of one uncomfortable truth: Sometimes there is no redemption. -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains coarse language, violence and underage smoking and drinking. 99 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube and Xbox.
ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY
“All the Light in the Sky,” a 2012 movie by Joe Swanberg (“Drinking Buddies,” “Happy Christmas”), stars Jane Adams as Marie, an actress living by the beach in Los Angeles, her career stalled as she hits middle age.
At 45, Marie is still fit, getting up early every morning to don a wet suit and ride the Malibu surf. She auditions, but keeps losing roles to Kristen Wiig. Trying to buck her up, a friend gives her a mantra to repeat at tryouts: “I have 45 years of experience, 45 years worth of color to be in this moment.”
As Marie shakily tries to apply that wisdom, she’s joined by Faye (Sophia Takal), her 25-year-old niece who’s coming to California to maybe break into the biz herself. While taking pains to make the young and beautiful girl feel welcome, Marie embarks on researching a role with a solar engineer, striking up a possible romance with a younger suitor and trying to navigate the feelings of insecurity, competition and faltering self-worth that ebb and flow like the waves underneath her precariously perched apartment.
In any other filmmaker’s hands, “All the Light in the Sky” would devolve into catty fights and life-isn’t-fair breakdowns, but Swanberg and Adams never make Marie a pathetic creature. Rather, she’s vulnerable, and even in her most mortifying moments (a hilariously foiled swift and silent getaway after a sexual encounter), they’re never anything but tender. Against the stunning backdrop of Malibu and the sonic stylings of the Orange Mighty Trio, “All the Light in the Sky” becomes a funny, touching and intimate meditation on aging and acceptance — the perfect at-home bookend to Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” which is in theaters.
Appropriately enough for Swanberg, who has carved out an impressive career in the super-independent space of micro-budget film, “All the Light in the Sky” is also about how to keep oneself sustainable within a constantly changing and often cruel media landscape.
Put another way, Swanberg is addressing how we live and love within our means — environmental, emotional and biological. “All the Light in the Sky” poses deep questions with the lightest of touches (the funniest of which is co-star Larry Fessenden’s impromptu Jack Nicholson impersonation). It wafts in and out like an ocean breeze, with just the right soothing undernote of optimism beneath the salty tang. -- A.H.
Unrated. Contains nudity, profanity, drug use and adult material. 79 minutes. Available via Amazon Instant, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.
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