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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 09.16.20] drama

It's bleak out there. Even before a global pandemic sent the world into a period of great unrest, countries were suffering through a period massive change. Technology, automation, globalization, climate change, these things are all affecting the way we live and Nicole Riegel's feature film debut Holler unfolds to the backdrop of a number of these.

Jessica Barden, best known for her role in "The End of the F***ing World," stars as Ruth, a high school student who spends a large part of her day scavenging for scrap metal with her brother Blaze (Gus Halper). Their mother is in jail, a victim of opioid addiction, and the siblings have been doing what they can to stay afloat and even then, they're living well below the poverty line with barely a roof over their heads.

Homeless and desperate, the siblings decide to take a job working with a scrap crew who make the bulk of their money from going into abandoned buildings and factories and stealing pretty much anything of value.

While Riegel, a native of Ohio where Holler takes place, is familiar with the people, places and the situation affecting the local population, the truth is that Ruth's story could be transplanted to any number of places. The struggle to find and keep unskilled work is a hardship faced by millions of people world-wide, as are homelessness, hunger, and struggles with mental health.

While Holler's story of struggle and perseverance is familiar, she captures a part of society that isn't always apparent. On the surface Ruth and Blaze are clearly struggling but there's little indication that the pair are living without running water, electricity and that they're one notice shy of eviction.

On a couple of occasions, Riegel incorporates clips of President Trump waxing poetic about jobs and the economy and while her intention is clear, the juxtaposition is a tad obvious and detracts from some of the film's more subtle observations.

Overall, Holler is a familiar story, aptly told, but the film stands out largely for Jessica Barden's performance. She's charismatic and there's an intimacy and depth to her performance that feels completely authentic.

Holler played as part of TIFF's Industry Selects.

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