‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

In Nicole Riegel’s feature debut, Jessica Barden stars as an Ohio teenager who strips buildings of metal to earn cash.

Holler begins with Ruth (Jessica Barden), its protagonist, running. She’s racing to drop trash bags into the flatbed of a truck, where her brother, Blaze (Gus Halper), is waiting. They high-tail it from the scene and sell discarded cans to Hark (Austin Amelio), who pays them chump change for metal. Soon, they will graduate to higher-stakes scrap work: stripping deserted buildings of wiring for larger payoffs, with even bigger risks.

The central question of the movie is whether Ruth will summon the courage to run again, to flee her hometown. The director, Nicole Riegel, making her feature debut, shot the film in the section of southern Ohio where she’s from. Riegel has said that Ruth’s story was inspired by her own challenges leaving the area. Even the medium — Super 16-millimeter film, in the era of digital — adds to the ambience of rusting, abandoned machinery.

Ruth has little overt incentive to stick around. She hides an eviction notice under a flower pot. Her mother (Pamela Adlon) is a drug addict in a county jail. But Ruth gets an unexpected — and, to a condescending teacher at her high school, impractical — offer of college admission: Although she had prepared the application, she never submitted it. Blaze did that for her.

The film strikes an unanticipated false note with its ending, which initially seems too easy — a way to avoid resolving conflicts. But despite a parting smile, and the music of Phoebe Bridgers over the credits, the final moments become bleaker upon reflection. The only way to end this story is to abandon it.

 

Source: ‘Holler’ Review: Escaping a Life of Scraps

Holler: Jessica Barden on Meeting Every Challenge

Jessica Barden leads Holler as Ruth Avery, a high school student living alone with her big brother Blaze (Gus Halper) while their mother (Pamela Adlon) is in prison. The two are having an impossible time making enough money selling cans to the local scrap metal dealer, Hark (Austin Amelio). But, when Blaze finds out that Ruth was accepted to college, it’s not just about getting by anymore; he becomes determined to ensure that she can go to school, so they commit to taking higher paying and far more dangerous gigs for Hark.

Check out this interview to hear all about Barden’s journey with Holler which included pouring loads of time and energy into the project, working through a blizzard and a polar vortex, and staying positive when the film’s premiere was delayed due to the pandemic. Barden also looked back on making Hanna with Saoirse Ronan, discussed the success of The End of the F***ing World, what she loves about working with first-time feature filmmakers, establishing the brother-sister relationship with Halper and so much more.

Source: Holler: Jessica Barden on Meeting Every Challenge on the Road to TIFF