TIFF Review: 'Hello Destroyer'

Hello Destroyer
(Canada, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Kevan Funk
Starring: Jared Abrahamson
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Hello Destroyer introduces a promising new voice on the Canadian film scene with its tale of hockey hosers and angry young men. The film marks the feature debut of Kevan Funk after a string of shorts and while it doesn't always work and runs half an hour too long, it hints at a talent of great potential. Funk proves himself adept at speaking volumes without having his characters say much, or anything at all, as Tyson (Jared Abrahamson, one if this year’s TIFF Rising Stars) percolates with angst and energy. Hello Destroyer looks at the dark underside of Canada’s favourite pastime as Funk taps into the pervasive violence that many players and fans simply accept as part of the sport. The film puts the audience right into Tyson’s head as the inescapable machismo of hockey culture permeates him and alters his DNA. There’s only so long one can endure boot camp-like aggression without losing one’s grasp of the consequences that come with expressing one’s rage through brute force.

Funk conveys the bleak outlook for Canada’s future by shooting Hello Destroyer largely with available light. The film is dark and moody, especially with the dank interiors and shadows that accentuate the sullenness of Abrahamson’s quiet, introspective performance. The film shows the pros and cons of using such a lighting scheme, though, as Hello Destroyer is often drab and dimly as images, particularly faces, are underexposed and unappealing.

Hello Destroyer hypnotises with Funk’s brooding direction as silent images, shallow focus, and slow motion show the overwhelming mania that fuels male aggression. As the film delves further into Tyson’s alienation, Funk replaces the aggressive behaviour of the players with compositions that feel like an infection as the young man spirals out of control without hope for the future. Funk invites the audience to sympathise with the directionless protagonist, but he doesn’t judge the characters and instead uses a quiet, pensive tone to tear open the sociology of violence that hockey culture entails for, as Tyson’s predicament shows, these acts extend beyond the ring.

TIFF runs Sept. 8-18.
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