Dir: Kat Candler
When we first meet the 13-year-old Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins) we see him indulging in a bit of mindless vandalism, smashing up a truck with a baseball bat with his friends, while his little brother Wes (Deke Garner) watches in both awe and fear. Jacob is an eye-rolling troublemaker with authority issues, and couldn’t make a worst first impression if he tried. His father Hollis (Aaron Paul) tries his best to keep his kids in line, but he is barely able to keep himself together, still mourning the death of his wife and drowning himself in beer and self-pity. The family has been in turmoil, and things threaten to get even worse when Wes is taken away by social services and placed in the care of his Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). Jacob occupies himself with motocross and listening to Slayer, while Hollis vainly tries to finish building the house he started while his wife was still alive, but soon they both must come to terms with what has happened to them and what must happen next.
Without being unfair, indie films about troubled families and disaffected teens are not far and few between. It’s the kind of movie that lives or dies on the strengths of the performances, and luckily the cast work to breath some life into what could have been a much duller film. Aaron Paul just about manages to move away from his most famous role as Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman, giving a mature and nuanced turn as a damaged father. Juliette Lewis plays it straight for a change as the boy’s overwhelmed but loving aunt. The young lad’s performances are admirable given that neither of them had acted before making this film. Jacob can be a horrible brat, but Wiggins grows into the role and redeems it. It clear that the actors know their stuff, and writer/director Kat Candler handles everything well, taking some visual cues from Terrence Malik, but ultimately it struggles to be the great film it tries to be. It’s a fine example of its form, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.