Nicole Reigels Holler is a cold desperate little movie.
Written and directed by Reigel, her directorial debut, and adapted from her earlier short film of the same name, it stars Jessica Barden who plays Ruth, a rather smart senior in high school, taken care of by her older brother while their mother is incarcerated. It’s up to these two to make ends meet any way they can and Ruth has her own future, a potential college education elsewhere, to figure out on top of it all. She’s a bright but troubled student in the class room but she’s just as equally street smart. It’s fascinating to see how these two traits of intelligence coexist.
Barden was great in The Lobster and I loved her in The End of The F***ing World. She brought a snarky charm to that show that was half of my favorite aspect of it but her character in this movie lives a much different life.
There is a consistent tone of hopelessness within her performance and it all certainly adds to her character. She does bring some more of that snarky charm, but in a much more grounded, worn down by a real cold world sort of way. It’s a bit desperate at times.
Holler is set against a chunk of Ohio that is dying economically. Jobs, especially in the manufacturing industry, the once staple of the area, are shrinking every day. You can see the decay creeping into the community. So Ruth and her brother Blaze fully turn to darker side of the scrapping business and join a crew from their local scrap yard. Its scrap yard work by day, party by evening and illegally scavenging various construction sites, abandoned industrial buildings by night to then sell to foreign companies for the top dollar. Clearly its not the best option, but it truly feels like the two siblings only option at the moment.
It could do a better job exhibiting Ruth’s dilemma of leaving her brother and her reluctant but unconditional relationship with her incarcerated mother behind for a “better” life. She understands the assignment. Survive first, thrive second. But when Ruth is fully immersed into the night scrapping world, you catch glimpses of her regret and can feel the entrapment of her life growing every day, making an escape no easier.
But when you take it all in by the end of Holler, you fully feel all of the harm that has been creeping in on Ruth for probably her entire life and we now find ourselves at an overwhelming boiling point. And without a moments notice, it leads to a comically dull but truly cathartic escape towards Ruth’s new beginning.