Jared Abrahamson (Fear the Walking Dead) plays a painfully shy but ruggedly capable enforcer on a minor-league hockey team who discovers the cutthroat nature of his locker-room “family,” in the forceful first feature from Canadian director Kevan Funk.
Timely, uncompromising and ultimately devastating, Kevan Funk's debut feature Hello Destroyer raises deeply troubling questions about how we teach boys to become adults, particularly within the context of Canada's national obsession: hockey.
A new recruit for the minor league Prince George Warriors, Tyson Burr (2016 TIFF Rising Star Jared Abrahamson) is a grinder whose primary tasks are digging the puck out of corners and protecting more skilled players. Tyson is painfully shy and inarticulate, the result of growing up with a dismissive and impatient father — and being raised in a world that places little value on emotional development. Indeed, fisticuffs are really the only meaningful common language the Warriors share. (The father in Tyson's host family considers hockey players to be excellent, cheaper replacements for Rottweilers — plus they come housebroken.)
The lone articulate character in Tyson's world is his walking carcinogen of a coach, Dale Milbury (Kurt Max Runte), who spews forth an endless string of asinine clichés ("There is no room in history for losers"; "Whoever wants it most gets it"). Spurred on by Milbury, Tyson inadvertently and almost unconsciously injures an opposing player, and soon finds out that the "family" he has grown up in is a lot more self-serving and cutthroat than he thought.
Shot in a barrage of claustrophobic close-ups that brilliantly mirror Tyson's confused and constantly anxious head space, Hello Destroyer is driven by Abrahamson's amazing performance, and director Funk's fearlessness. Few Canadian artists have had the courage to question our assumptions about our national game, and fewer still have mounted such a forceful critique of an athletics system that forges young boys into weapons and then abandons them when they become inconvenient.