As the films opens, we bear witness to a young woman running with bags and ultimately hauling around scrapes of metal in the dead of winter for cash. From the look on her face, you sense this was not what she dreamed her future would look like as a child. She and brother, Blaze (Gus Halper) quickly bounce from that alley dumping off discarded cans to Hark (Austin Amelio), who pays gives them little to no return monetarily. It’s not long before they graduate beyond grabbing cans to the more bulk metal, but discover soon enough it doesn’t come without its dangers or challenges.
With “Holler,” director Nicole Riegel, has patterned a character not unlike her younger self and also like Ruth Avery, she ran in order to create a life unlike her current exstence leading straight into a dead end life with only one way out. After all, why should she feel incentivized to stick around? She’s hiding eviction notices and her Mom (Pamela Adlon) is an incarceated drug addict.
Just then, Ruth (Jessica Barden) gets an unexpected offer of college admission from an application she never mailed – Blaze did that for her. Even her counselor at school has no faith that she can create a life outside of hustling for dollars. There’s a lot to unpack here. Nicole allows us to witness the fragility of Ruth emotionally. As a young devoid of a lving fmaily unit, she desperately long for someone to love her, yet looks in all the wrong places when Hanksneak a kiss. Later, he’s seen with other women hanging all over him, leaving her with a twinge of jealously that drives her to a room alone blasting music thorugh headphones.
Tapping into the reality of plant workers, whose jobs can disappear without warning, is an issue that resonated with audiences over the last year with Nomadland. It’s an existence many of us will never know, but is all too real for those inhabiting that life.
Jessica Barden encapsulates this emotional merry-go-round exquistely with an earthy realness searing off the screen. Pamela Adlon is pitch perfect as a mother who attempts kindness only to lash out when thing don’t quite go her way and Gus Halper is that big brother we all wish was unquely ours. He’s the nuclear glue holding the fragments of the family together only to watch it grow and flourish in ways that almost seemed unimaginable.
As corney as this sounds, when I watched this doll glide down the freeway in her brother’s truck, I was giddy. When the odds are stacked against you being poor, people expect you to spend a lifetime living below the poverty line. Desptie those odds, it’s a beautiful thing when you are able to prove them wrong.