(director/writer: Nicole Riegel; cinematographer: Dustin Lane; editor: Kate Hickey; music: Gene Back; cast: Pamela Adlon (Rhonda), Jessica Barden (Ruth), Austin Amelio (Hark), Grace Kaiser (Tonya), Gus Halper (Blaze), Becky Ann Baker (Linda); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Rachel Gould/Adam Cobb/Jamie Patricof/ Katie McNeill/ Christy Spitzer Thornton: Feigco Entertainment; 2020)
“A familiar sad tale about the woes of uneducated workers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Nicole Riegel’s feature debut, filmed in a raw documentary style in the same area she was raised and escaped from, using handheld 16mm cameras for greater effect (even as we’re in the digital age), is a familiar sad tale about the woes of uneducated workers. It’s competently made and heart-wrenching, thanks to the powerful performance of Jessica Barden, the 28-year-old British actress as Ruth. She’s a struggling Southern Ohio bookish high school teenager who strips buildings of metal to earn cash in a dying Rust Belt town called Jackson, a town she can’t escape from. Her mom (Pamela Adlon) screwed up after getting hooked on pain killers to treat a hand injury, and now is in prison on a detox program.
Ruth’s helpful older brother Blaze (Gus Halper) ekes out a survivalist living by doing odd jobs in town, and helping her get the metal scrapings to sell for a pittance to the adult exploiter Hark (Austin Amelio), and to others for a better price.
Things look dire when Ruth gets an eviction notice. But a soft-hearted teacher gets her to fill out an application for college admittance and she’s accepted after her brother hands it in for her. It seems like an awkward way to end the narrative, but it makes us think if getting a higher education is really the only way out of her bleak life.
Holler expands on the filmmaker’s 2016 short of the same title. This seems to be a subject Riegel is well-versed in.
REVIEWED ON 6/24/2021 GRADE: B-