October 20, 2012
Dir. Michelle Danner
Prod. Ed Cha, Michelle Danner, Brian Drillinger, Alexandra Guarnieri
Genre: American Drama
Starring: Norman Reedus, Garrett Backstrom, Martha Higareda
This is a movie that I wasn’t really expecting to like as much as I do. I originally watched it because it stars one of my favourite actors and it has quickly become a movie I watch over and over again.
Hello Herman tells two stories. First is the story of Herman Howards (Backstrom), a sixteen year old boy who brings a gun to school and shoots forty-two people. He records the whole thing and sends the footage to Lax Morales (Reedus), a journalist with a not-so-great history of his own. Through Lax’s interviews with Herman and flashback of Lax’s past, we find explore the reasons why things like this happen and what can we do about it.
Like I said before, I wasn’t really expecting to like this film that much. I had read the synopsis, seen the trailer, and read some reviews, and I really wasn’t too sure about it. But I figured I’d give it a chance and I sure am glad I did.
This film explores the cause behind teenage violence, behind violence in general really It takes a look at all the reasons why these sorts of things might happen and how a person’s relationship with those around can seriously affect who they are. It asks the question: When a school shooting happens, who is to blame? Is it the child’s? The parents? Bullies? Or is there some other reason? Is the person born evil or did they somehow become that way over time?
Hello Herman isn’t the first film to explore this topic. I’m sure many of you have heard of the documentary, Bowling for Columbine, about the Columbine massacre that happened in 1999. Another film is We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller and based on the book of the same name by Lionel Shriver. In a lot of ways Hello Herman reminds me of We Need to Talk About Kevin in the sense that they both look at the idea that these things can happen when there is a disconnect between the shooter and those around them. However, Hello Herman takes a bit of a difference approach to getting there than the other film did.
There are various reasons given as to why Herman did what he did: his parents split up when he was young, his mother was always working and never around, his little sister died when he was watching her, he was bullied constantly at school. But that’s not all, there are other reasons, reasons that don’t involve people, that are presented as well. Herman plays violent video games, listens to angry, violent music, and watched violent movies. Hello Herman presents all of these as possibly being the reason behind events such as these.
This is actually something that many people didn’t like about the film. A lot of reviews I read criticize the film and say it puts blame on video games and movies which are totally unrelated. But, can we really know that? Can we be 100% certain about why anyone does what they do?
Now, despite the brilliance of the message, this film could’ve gone horribly wrong if they hadn’t cast the right actors. Garrett Backstrom in the role of Herman did such a great job. There are times when he comes off as cold and uncaring and he convinces the audience that he really is a heartless killer. But then other times we see Herman as a scared sixteen year old kid. Backstrom has such great expressions that he can go from uncaring school shooter to a kid who can’t wait to grow up in a matter of seconds. Of course, having one brilliant actor won’t make a difference if the person they’re working opposite of isn’t just as good. I’ve seen a lot of Norman Reedus’s work and so far I haven’t been disappointed. Just like Backstrom, Reedus is so expressive throughout the film. You can clearly see the struggle he goes through as he tries to accept his past and figure out if he and Herman are more alike than he thought. You can feel the pain he experiences each time it’s presented.
My favourite scene in the whole film is also, in my opinion, the saddest. Near the end of the film, during Herman and Lax’s final interview before Herman’s execution, Herman tells Lax that he deserves to be loved. Despite everything he’s done, he deserves to be love. His reason? Because he’s human too. This scene is so powerful and it gets me every time. It reaches the core of the film and shows that Herman’s need for a connection with others is so important to him. Backstrom and Reedus did a phenomenal job in this scene and this is one where you can feel the emotion and, despite everything both of these characters have done, you feel sad and hurt right along with them.
Hello Herman is a great film with a powerful message delivered by a small cast of talented people. While in many ways it is similar to other films like this, it definitely has it’s own way of telling the tale. This is a film that makes you think about you decisions and the choices you make. It makes you look at the world around you and think. This is a film that I highly recommend.
Have you seen Hello Herman? What did you think?