High school senior Ruth (Jessica Barden) is smart. She’s also incredibly insolent. That’s her survival mechanism for life in her small rust belt town. Her and her brother Blaze (Gus Halper) work at a local scrap yard to make ends meet while their drug addict mother (Pamela Adlon) is stuck in county jail. But work and money are hard to come by and when Ruth and Blaze are evicted, they resort to helping their sketchy boss Hark (Austin Amelio) steal scrap metal. When a college acceptance letter arrives in the mail, Ruth finds out that her application, which she finished but set aside, was mailed in my her brother. College is Ruth’s beacon of hope to get out of her situation. But will she be able to scrape enough money to get out?
Written and directed by Nicole Riegel, Holler is a poignant coming-of-age story. Riegel’s film brilliantly evokes the struggle of small town life and what it’s like when the cards seem stacked against you. Jessica Barden is simply brilliant as Ruth, the film’s flawed yet relatable protagonist. Ruth’s insolence can be off-putting and her story requires some patience. On second viewing I found more richness in the film and relished in all of the small details and nuances once I was able to break down that barrier to entry.
In a statement Riegel notes, “my film is a semi-autobiographical story about how challenging it was to transcend where I came from as a young woman, both practically and emotionally.” Holler was shot on location in Jackson, Ohio, Riegel’s hometown, and includes many locals as extras for authenticity.
Holler is distributed by IFC Films and is available in theaters and on demand