My mom bought Beasts of the Southern Wild because she ‘heard it was good.’ Translation: it was nominated for an Oscar. What my mother fails to take into account, is that the majority of Oscar nominated films are dull, sentimental and tedious. *Ahem* Lincoln, The King’s Speech, The Artist… I could go on. She also didn’t think too much about the fact that Beasts of the Southern Wild is an independent film. Ergo, not a big budget and some crazy, usually hippy, undertones.
So the movie was really doomed from the start. At least to the average shallow movie goer.
I quite enjoyed the film. It was at times slow moving and the plot is unremarkable, but artfully done. The story centres on Hushpuppy, a 7 or 8 year old girl living with her Daddy on the bayou, in a fictional area called The Bathtub, reminiscent of Louisiana. The Bathtub has been cut off from the rest of the area, an island in the middle of water no one else wants. The others have built a levee to keep the water- and the citizens of the Bathtub- out. They figure the citizens of Bathtub will drown eventually.
Hushpuppy lives in her own “house”, really just a shack on stilts. Her Dad lives in his house. Hushpuppy dons rubber boots, underwear and a dirty tank top. She cooks her own food, consisting of gravy and cat food heated in a pan on a stove started with a blowtorch. Nobody said her Daddy was a good father. Daddy disappeared for days. He came back in a hospital gown. Hushpuppy wants to know where he was. He tells her to shut up. When she insists he slaps her. She punches him over his heart. He falls to the ground. And in the eyes of the seven year old, the universe is now out of balance.
Between a massive storm, collapsing ice shelves, her Dad’s failing health and aurochs closing in, Hushpuppy’s world is crumbling.
It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not in this film. The story is told through Hushpuppy’s eyes and narration. In her mind, the thunder is caused by the collapse of ice shelves into the ocean, something she had heard at school. Her teacher also told her about aurochs, ancestors of cows that used to be the biggest baddest beasts around. When her dad falls and the storm starts, Hushpuppy makes the connection that hitting her dad has plunged the universe into chaos. She says, “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted.”
The film is quite symbolic and metaphorical. It requires attention and your brain needs to be engaged. Which is not what my family is looking for in a movie.
The acting on the part of Quvenzhané Wallis is incredible. How a 9 year old can act that effortlessly is beyond me. It really was monumental for her to be nominated for Best Actress, the youngest actress ever, by four years. But I digress. If you’re looking for a fun and engaging movie, don’t pick this one. If you’re looking for a though provoking and startlingly honest look at an impoverished seven year old’s life through her eyes, this is the movie for you.
This last line from the movie sums up the message of the film, as told by Hushpuppy, “When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me lying around in invisible pieces. When I look too hard, it goes away. And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here. I see that I’m a little piece in a big, big universe. And that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future, they’re gonna find it all. They gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she live with her daddy in the Bathtub.”