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Hesher (2010)


“Life is like walking in the rain… you can hide and take cover or you can just get wet.”

Reviewing Spencer Susser’s Hesher for a media with a family-friendly focus can be a challenging task. Yet, it is a Coming-of-Age film and, as such, deserves to be featured on

The hero of the story is the twelve-year-old T.J. (Devin Brochu), a troubled youngster who has a lot of things to deal with.  Among them is the death of his mother, the bullies at school, a depressed father who can’t offer any support whatsoever, and, as if this is not enough, having an unwanted friend named Hesher.  Hesher is a metalhead who fits right into the stereotypical image for such people (drunkards, partiers, and fighters who often have a powerful dislike towards the close-minded and mainstream).

Without seeing the movie (or seeing posters of DVD covers other than the one I chose to illustrate my review – from the Japanese release of the movie), one might think the film is primarily about the metalheads and the heavy metal subculture. Even the film is titled after its representative.

But that’s not the case.  It is the story of T.J and his struggle to overcome his grief without the support of his father and with the highly questionable support of a metalhead who follows the boy home and moves in, taking advantage of the nonfunctional state of his family. A great deal of the story is told from T.J.’s perspective.  So I chose the Japanese cover because it prominently features T.J.

Devin Brochu as T.J in the 2010 film HesherDevin Brochu as T.J. in the 2010 film Hesher

The film grabs the attention of the viewer from its first moments. Tension, action, bicycle stunts, a troubled kid – all promise a powerful drama.  Then T.J. meets Hesher, and this unfortunate event threatens to change his attitude and behavior. Deprived of his father’s support and counseling, T.J. is confused and distressed by the man’s actions, who invites himself into his house and pretty much takes over the kid’s family (or at least what’s left of it).  At this point, the movie loses some of its credibility.  I had a hard time getting used to the presence of Hesher in T.J.’s family and the reactions of his father and grandmother. It seemed that, other than me, T.J. was the only other person who had a hard time getting used to this situation.

Overcoming the “Yeah Right!”  reaction took some effort on my part, but then the movie actually engaged my attention. The adolescent crush of T.J. on a young woman working as a cashier at the local grocery store (Natalie Portman) and his bully issues turned out to be two of the most “normal” happenings in the story. The excessive usage of foul language, sexual references, and offensive, violent behavior makes the film unsuitable for youngsters and/or people who are easily offended. I have seen a lot of films that could be labeled controversial because of their subject matter or the way it is presented.  Hesher, however, does not deserve to be called a controversial film. It is nothing more than a meaningless show of how many offensive words can be fit into 106 minutes.

Devin Brochu and Joseph Gordon-LevittDevin Brochu and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ( T.J and Hesher )

It’s sad, because of the vulgar manner in which the story is presented, many people won’t get a chance to enjoy the brilliant acting of the young Devin Brochu and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who played the older Nail in the truly controversial 2004 film Mysterious Skin) and enjoy the great soundtrack (and one does not have to be a fan of heavy metal to do this).  Yet, the trade-off might be worth it. I would not recommend this film – as I don’t believe that one would miss much from not seeing it. It’s all summarized in the quote from the movie with which I started this review:

“Life is like walking in the rain… you can hide and take cover, or you can just get wet.”

I have overseen the trailer, ensuring that, although the movie is rated R,  it can be displayed at


Film title: Hesher
Also known as Metalhead
Genre: Drama
Release year: 2010 — Last Picture Company, The, CatchPlay, Corner Store Entertainment
Director: Spencer Susser
Cast: Devin Brochu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie and others


  1. I watched this last night. I said I will see if it’s good, I will only see 30 min and then I’ll go to bed. Well I couldn’t stop, I watched the whole movie I stayed up until 1 am, on a school night, lol.

    Anyway, I really like the movie even thou, is full of fiction and sometimes you can say, what the…. was that?

    But the story behind all this is, how the life of a kid is affected because of the dead of a close one.

    You have this troubled kid that is struggling while there this crazy young adult that is more troubled that the kid, but at the same time is trying to help him.

    I wouldn’t go into any details, but this is a must watch.

    And the acting from Devin Brochu and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just impecable.

    BTW Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the best child actors that transitioned into adulthood really well. And is still doing great movies.

  2. I watched the movie and i quite liked it. Obviously it is not a true masterpiece but it wasn’t bad because of that.

    Skykid mentioned something about the whole Hesher moving in with TJ being unrealistic. Sure, a bit maybe. But in general i think it could happen if you live the exact same circumstances as TJ did and meet someone like Hesher – even if it is VERY unlikely.

    All in all it was splendid and of course a bit unconventional, but i like that.

  3. Interesting perspective. I am not sure if the film would have included such a complex storytelling – but what you described seems pleasurable to me. Since Helsher evidently took the blame for most of the things T.J should of have felt like doing anyway or the fact that he did not intervene in the bathroom scene. But then…it would make sense in those scenes ….may be not in the scenes with the cashier or the final scenes.

    I guess one could approach the director of the film with a question about that. Its an idea to keep in mind.  

  4. I thought this film was very good and a different approach to conventional cirumstances and situations usually present in coming-of-age films. It was almost a black comedy in a sense, but also containted a number of engaging and emotional scenes which were very real.

    We’ve been talking about the use of swearing in partiuclar films, quite a lot this week, and this film is no exception. There are many cusses in this film, however I felt most of them were justified by the situation, influence from other characters and driven from an emotional time in the protagonists life. I did feel it was overused in some scenes however. I think the use of swearing really needs to be analysed when writing a script, just like everything else. If you have a cuss word in your script then you need to really break down WHY it is there and what has brought it on. This I felt was addressed in most scenes throughout Hesher. I did not have a problem with it in this film.

    Obviously, you have to get passed the “yeah right” factor (as skykid mentioned) but I felt this did not affect my involvement in the film. In fact I would even go as far as to say that Hesher literally moving himself in with this family was justified. It was emphasised heavily that the father was neglecting his son, the grandmother was not all with it, that when Hesher threatens TJ within his own home, that was enough for TJ to ‘pretend’ that Hesher was his friend, and that he was going to stay with them for a while. The father being in the state that he was, would possibly not care.

    I thought it was a good look into a child’s psyche dealing with these particular issues of loss and loneliness, and I thought the love interest was dealt with very delicately and spot on. I thought Natalie Portman was fantastic but her character could of been explored more.

    Devin Brochu was brilliant. He was very nautral and his screen presence was great to watch. Some of his scenes were heartbreaking and his expressions were very impressive for the moment. Props to the director as well.

    I really enjoyed Hesher, it’s a story about the different influences and the different people that come in and out of your life that ultimately shape your life for better or worse. It’s about letting go, and finding your place in the world after a tradgedy has occured. I love the way this story was told, and I actually liked the small unrealistic aspects of the film with the character of Hesher propelling the story.

    • Thanks for the comments. I believe that add a huge value to the site – by allowing readers to get yet another view point. A question – would you agree with me on my opinion of the lead personage in the film…may be you already provided an answer in your comment…yet to be sure I decided to ask.

      To me the fact that Helsher moved into the boy`s home just like that and everyone acted like nothing too major happened is illogical and highly unlikely to happen in the real life …that`s probably why the ” yeah right ” factor held for me for most of the film.

      Devin Brochu  of course delivered quite a performance comparable to the one of Robert Naylor in 10 1/2 and Harley Cross in .


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