With his debut feature, Hello Destroyer, Vancouver filmmaker Kevan Funk has created one of the most pointed, poignant, and subtly unnerving films about Canada’s tenuous relationship to its unofficial national sport and greatest pastime.
Tyson Burr (TIFF 2016 Rising Star Jared Abrahamson) plays junior league hockey for the Prince George Warriors. Like most sports teams, the players on the team are hyped up and congratulated profusely by their coach when they win, and cruelly chastised whenever they’re losing. Late in a losing effort, Tyson, already seen by most of his teammates and coach as an enforcer type, commits a brutal, illegal hit on an opposing player that leads to an “indefinite suspension” while the team tries to save face. Tyson is left wondering what his life would be like without hockey in it. The sport is all he knows and the uncertainty leaves him just as shaken as the fateful on ice incident has.
Funk has crafted a sparse, intelligent film steeped in deeper meaning. Hello Destroyer is the story of a young man who rightly or wrongly has seen the one thing he’s worked his entire life to achieve go away in a matter of seconds, while paying for his mistakes potentially for the rest of his life. It’s a film about hockey, but really you could substitute basically any sport. Funk never condones the film’s inciting incident, but wants the viewer to question the many ways it could have played out differently.
While Funk’s storytelling, direction, and visual eye are top notch, the film belongs to Abrahamson who gives an almost Brando level performance here. Tyson is a young man of few words, and Abrahamson has to convey every painful, conflicting emotion swirling around in the character’s head with looks, glances, and sighs.