Hello Destroyer is a film that deals with violence in hockey, yet contains very little violence or hockey. Instead we follow Tyson (Jared Abrahamson), the instigator of a dirty check that puts another player in the hospital, as he’s made an example of for doing what he’s likely been encouraged to do his entire life. The coach and teammates, who we see are like family at the beginning of the film, seem more than happy to throw Tyson under the bus and move on.
Making his feature debut, writer/director Kevan Funk has crafted a film that’s quiet and subtle, almost to a fault. The dialogue is sparse. Athletes and small town working class people aren’t always eager to articulate what’s going on inside, or simply don’t know how, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation from the viewer. Despite his enforcer status on the team, we can see early on that Tyson is a very sensitive young man. He confesses to a teammate that silence has always bothered him, yet he seems to live in that space, particularly after the incident, when all the applause, yelling, and cacophony of sounds that go along with competitive sports fades away. The scenes where Tyson does muster a few words always manage provide some insight into this quiet spartan.
Newcomer Jared Abrahamson carries the emotional weight of Tyson with aplomb. It’s the pain in the words he cannot find that puts Abrahamson’s performance in a league with Casey Affleck’s Oscar-winning turn in Manchester by the Sea. He’s physically fit for the role as well, looking every bit the part of the Prince George Warriors’ muscle. It will be difficult for the young actor to follow up this role with something else as challenging or fitting.
Hello Destroyer is not a hockey film, but it is indeed very Canadian. From the open landscapes of Prince George to the interactions of its blue collar residents, it will all feel eerily familiar for anyone who has spent time in a small Canadian town. It’s a visually and emotionally bleak film, but it all feels depressingly authentic. The problems presented show no promise of solution, and we’re left with one of the most hopeless conclusions in recent memory. Hello Destroyer would play in stark contrast with the sequel to Goon that comes out next week, a film that deals with hockey violence in a very different way, and should provide some much needed levity after watching this.