Hillbilly Elegy

Imagine growing up in Middletown, Ohio — a childhood filled with small town living, an unstable mother and a desire to make something of yourself. 

Netflix’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” based off of 2016 “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” follows the narrative of J.D. Vance, a Yale Law student who recounts his rough upbringing. 

Vance grew up in Ohio with his mother, older sister and grandparents. His family is originally from Jackson, Ky. with strong Appalachian values. The family is filled with hurt ranging from an array of abuses like substance, verbal and physical. 

Throughout the film, his family’s past and toxic tendencies are unveiled. Vance’s grandfather was a raging alcoholic for numerous years with many accounts of physical attacks upon Vance’s grandmother. For this reason, his grandparents lived in separate homes despite still being married.

Bev, Vance’s mother, did what she could to provide for her son and daughter despite struggling with drug abuse. Bev’s drug abuse habits stemmed from her abusive relationships with her slew of bad men. Bev’s habits got so bad that Vance eventually moved in with his strict grandmother until he joined the Marines.

Vance’s sister, Lindsey, never found her way out of small town life and ended up having a rocky marriage and four kids. Lindsey was forced to watch over her mother once Vance went off to college and law school.

Vance is a resilient man who struggles between his desire to succeed in law and the needs of his abnormal family.  

There’s a lot to take away from a film like “Hillbilly Elegy.” There’s something everyone can relate to in the film without necessarily living through the same exact experience. 

Childhood trauma can stick with you forever. Unpacking trauma can be one of the most challenging aspects of life. Vance works through the film to reel with the pain caused by his mother and other family members. 

There comes a point when we have to forgive the hurts of our past and more importantly forgive our parents for their past. One of the worst parts of growing up and is when you begin to see your parents as humans for their flaws instead of superheroes. 

For many young adults, there comes a time when you acknowledge what your parents have been through and why they parented you the way they did. Because of this, we may not be able to forgive our parents, but we could work towards forgiving their pasts.

That’s what unfolds before us in “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance grows up in a toxic environment most kids can’t get out of. 

“Hillbilly Elegy” is a beautiful testament to forgiveness, healing, abuse and childhood. The film takes the viewer on a roller coaster like the journey of life. 

Although the film has been met with mixed reviews, I think it is worth the watch if you need healing with your family relationships or grew up experiencing someone who struggled with substance abuse.

“Hillbilly Elegy” goes beyond hillbilly ideals and encapsulates the cycle of destructive parent-child relations. 

The hurt you may feel is valid. Vance worked on personally forgiving the hurts his mother endured. As a society, we shouldn’t be forced to mend problems with our parents. We can, however, forgive them for their pasts.


Follow Blake Haynes on Twitter, @BLAMHAY

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