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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Plenty of iffy behavior on display, but themes include importance of family, loyalty, self-reliance, making the choice to change your life. Promotes value of education.
Positive Role Models
Ruth is smart, tough, self-reliant, trying to manage school and work so she can go to college in hopes of having a better life. But she also makes dangerous, sometimes illegal choices. Blaze is a devoted brother doing everything he can to better Ruth's life -- although he, too, does iffy things. Their mother is portrayed realistically but empathetically as someone who ended up with a substance dependency (and associated problems) due to a doctor who was over-willing to prescribe pain pills. No notable diversity within cast.
Violence & Scariness
Physical assault leaves victim bloody and hospitalized. Fatal shooting (off-camera). Additional gunfire. Arguments/yelling.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. Sexual reference using crude slang.
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Pervasive strong language, including "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "hell," "s--t," "skank," and "f--k." "Jesus Christ" and "oh my God" used as exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy drinking at a party, including straight out of large bottles. Character is incarcerated as a result of a substance dependency that has clearly cost her everything.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Holler is a coming-of-age drama about a high school senior whose family is trapped by the poverty that's killing their small Rust Belt town. College may be the only way out for Ruth (Jessica Barden), who's used to taking risks and fending for herself, especially if the town factory shuts down. Filmed on location in Jackson, Ohio, the hometown of writer-director Nicole Riegel, the film is dark and gritty, with a brutal beating and off-camera gun violence that in one instance is fatal. A couple makes out constantly, with references indicating that they're having sex; there's also an uncomfortable kiss between a teen girl and an older man. Strong language includes a crude term for a sex act, frequent use of "f--k," and more. Ruth's mother is incarcerated as a result of a pill dependency, and Ruth wrestles with the worry that leaving her -- and everything she knows -- behind would be a betrayal to her working-class family and community. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Using her own life as an inspiration, writer-director Nicole Riegel skillfully crafts a portrait of a teen girl trying to escape poverty without abandoning her family. Ruth and Blaze live in what seems like a dystopian environment, but the voice of former President Donald Trump on the news is a wake-up call: Their hard, gritty life isn't a futuristic world where it all went wrong, it's a real part of the United States. It's remarkable how few films have been made about living in the crumbling Rust Belt, but then most Hollywood movies are about escapism. And this, by contrast, is a film where you want the main character to escape.
Ruth feels like an outlier in her community due to her ambition and academic performance. She's also guarded: Her dad isn't in the picture, her mom is incarcerated in relation to an opioid dependency, and Blaze can't really keep a roof over their head. The two sell cans to a scrap metal yard and are then hired to work there, which means sneaking into abandoned buildings and stealing whatever is salable. Ruth is short with everyone -- she's already been through so much, she's done putting up with nonsense. Yet Barden's portrayal allows us to see that Ruth is a survivor. Whether you can relate to their circumstances or not, Barden and Riegel provide a worthy walk in another teen's worn-out shoes.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.