Hillbilly Elegy review: A film that shows the American dream is still alive but in need of help

Hillbilly Elegy starring Glenn Close and Owen Asztalos is a film that shows the American dream is still alive but definitely in need of help

Hillbilly Elegy                                                                             Netflix, from Tuesday

Rating:

Social mobility is a phrase we hear a lot about these days, and quite right too. The idea that someone should be able to succeed academically and improve themselves, regardless of social class or ability to pay, is unarguably a good thing. 

But, my goodness, it can be difficult in practice, as Ron Howard’s latest film powerfully shows.

Adapted from a bestselling memoir by J. D. Vance, it’s the story of an intelligent young man who has battled hard to succeed, despite his hillbilly origins in the Appalachians of Kentucky. 

I had to double-check that it really was Glenn Close (above, with Owen Asztalos as young J. D.) being superb as the tough-talking matriarch, Mamaw

I had to double-check that it really was Glenn Close (above, with Owen Asztalos as young J. D.) being superb as the tough-talking matriarch, Mamaw

His was a boyhood spent in a broken-down land of wood cabins, pick-up trucks and endless bottles of beer.

But somehow he escaped, first via the Marines, and then state university and Yale law school. But even as he prepares for his vital final year, his roots keep calling him back. 

His heroin-addicted mother has overdosed and his married sister has had enough, so J.D. has to go back, despite missing interviews vital for his career.

Next Page