A young boy has lost his mother and is losing touch with his father and the world around him. Then he meets Hesher who manages to make his life even more chaotic.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson and Natalie Portman.
Directed by Spencer Susser.
Written by Spencer Susser and David Michôd.
Story by Brian Charles Frank.
Executive Producers: Natalie Portman, Spencer Susser, Morgan Susser, Lucy Cooper, Johnny Lin, Scott Prisand and Win Sheridan.
Hesher is most definitely not a conventional movie. It’s a snapshot into the lives of a 13-year old boy and his father who are going through an emotional, painful turning point. We don’t know anything about them beyond they are still dealing with the pain of losing a loved one.
That tension carries throughout Hesher as T.J., played by Devin Brochu, can’t let go of the family vehicle in which his mother died. His father, Paul, played to perfection by the underrated Rainn Wilson, retreats into pills and sweatpants and grows distant from his son. T.J., in turn, finds solace first in the form of Nicole, a mousy supermarket cashier who intervenes when a bully is beating him up. But it’s when T.J. encounters Hesher that people’s lives change.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a captivating performance as Hesher, a tattooed, vulgar, chain-smoking, head-banging scrawny drifter in a rusty black van who serves as the catalyst of the film. His unpredictable volatility that is both captivating and confusing. Why is Hesher so angry, yet, so willing to use his volatility to look out for others? As these characters’ lives intertwine and get tangled, so do the relationships. Hesher’s harsh exterior shows cracks sparingly, and only when people are at their most vulnerable, such as T.J.’s grandmother, who has taken to looking after Paul and T.J. But Hesher’s inability to be compassionate relegates him to being more passive-aggressive than comforting.
While the film’s title is Hesher, director Spencer Susser spends most of the film following T.J. It’s really his story. But Hesher is the catalyst; not just for T.J., but for everyone around him. Hesher is the intermediary between T.J. and Paul, where they both begin to figure out how to move forward after a tragic loss. Along the way, we understand a bit better about Hesher’s own vulnerability. But we just don’t connect enough with the characters. We get vignettes and snapshots of them, but never enough to truly feel them.
Ultimately, Hesher is about living with, dealing with and accepting pain. About accepting the reality of who you are and what you are right now. After all, without acceptance, you can’t move forward. Grief is ugly. But it’s okay to embrace your anger to deal with it.
The problem with Hesher is we never truly feel the emotion. We feel the tension and, at times, empathize with each character’s struggle. But we never dig deep enough to get to its heart. I’m not saying it has to be a tear jerker to be good, but we never feel much for the characters. While entertaining and well acted, Hesher is just a bit too superficial and muddled to be a great film. Just as with the characters in the movie, we never really get a chance to connect with Hesher.
** 1/2 stars (out of 5)