Monday, December 04, 2017

Hollow in the Land: Working Class Canadian Noir

There are two kinds of thrillers, the tony kind that pit rivals against each other for inheritances and swiss bank accounts, and the grungy sort, whose characters kill one another for spite and pocket change. This is the latter kind. In Castlegar, BC, everyone knows who Allison Miller is—and boy is it ever a drag. However, she will fight like a wolverine to protect her punky brother in Scooter Corkle’s Hollow in the Land (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Miller’s father Keith was notorious even before he drunkenly plowed down the teen son of the wealthiest family in town. Rather awkwardly, she still works at the mill they own. With their mother long gone, Allison must assume head-of-household responsibilities, but her delinquent younger brother Brandon does not make it easier. As a kicker, she also faces provincial prejudices for her lesbian relationship with the divorced and often harassed mother of Brandon’s girlfriend, Sophie Hinters.

Evidently, the thuggish Earl Hinters violently interrupted Brandon and Sophie in a moment of intimacy, so Miller’s brother inevitably becomes the prime suspect in old man Hinters’ subsequent murder. Knowing his family history is stacked against him, Brandon takes to the wind, leaving Allison to try to make sense of the case. Despite the sheriff’s attempts to intimidate her, she quickly discovers another mystery person was present that fateful night—most likely the same person who phoned the tip to Hinters, bringing him out there to his death.

Hollow is solidly effective small-town thriller that also incorporates quite a bit of social realism. Castlegar looks wonderfully picturesque if you run an internet image search, but Corkle paints a decidedly grimmer picture. Regardless, he makes us feel how completely alone Miller is, on a direct and personal level.

Dianna Agron is hardly an unknown quantity due her television credits, but her work in Hollow will earn her some second looks and second thoughts. She is terrific as the weary, somewhat self-destructive blue-collar protagonist. She carries the picture and stands her ground, despite fearlessly depicting Miller’s myriad faults and weaknesses. In contrast, most viewers would be unable to pick out the actor who plays Brother Brandon (or most of the other unsavory dudes) out of line-up, half an hour after watching Hollow. Oddly enough, one of the supporting players who really registers is Jessica McLeod, who plays Freya, a reluctant witness to related shenanigans—a significant role, but one with relatively limited screen time.

Hollow does not exactly break new ground, but its grit and guts are compelling. Norm Li’s coldly severe cinematography dramatically accentuates Miller’s social alienation and the physical isolation of the surrounding landscape. It is not quite on a level with Wind River, but it is still a good film. Recommended for fans of naturalistic thrillers, Hollow in the Land opens this Friday (12/8) in New York, at the Cinema Village.