Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Written by Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar based on Lucy Alibar’s stage play
A movie written by a woman! Starring a little girl! And the little girl is black! Let’s hear it for representation!
I went into this movie knowing nothing at all about it, and I have to say it was an awesome way to watch. Hushpuppy aka Sadie is the narrator, the point of view character in a small Southern Bayou town called Bathtub. Her father, Wink, has a mysterious illness and it seems to be linked either to Hushpuppy wishing he would die or to the weird cataclismic weather which plagues the town.
The lead character is played by Quvenzhané Wallis and she is compelling and funny, she carries the movie seemingly effortlessly. Her character is imaginative, fun loving, tough and violent. I love her.
The movie is strange and arty, I think because we’re viewing the world through Hushpuppy’s eyes. After her teacher tells them that aurochs used to prey on cavemen and eat the babies, but that they were frozen in the ice age one assumes it’s just a random thing that won’t come up again, but then we see the ice melting and aurochs coming out of the frost. They are beautifully realised, stunning beasts which may or may not be real. My read is that they’re a metaphor for the destruction of Hushpuppy’s world. There’s a lot of destruction in this film, from the fire at the start of the movie, to the breakdown of Wink’s health to the cataclysmic hurricane that destroys the houses and strands our characters on boats.
The movie is in essence her trying to make sense of the world by harnessing what she understands: destruction and the weirdness around her. The relationship between her and her father Wink is hard to watch, but it feels very real and I love the stories he tells her about her absent mother. If I had to compare it to any other movie then I’d probably name The Fall and Map of the Human Heart, although the family relationship and the natural disaster also reminded me of The Impossible, but it’s a very different movie to all of those.
Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. I loved Hushpuppy within five minutes of the movie starting. It’s harder to love Wink, but I was very worried about him and what could possibly be wrong with him so although I don’t condone much of his behaviour I definitely love him. I teared up some towards the end of the film when he reveals his diagnosis.
Bechdel test: Yes, Hushpuppy talks to her teacher Miss Bathsheba about food – she’s waiting for her dad and Miss Bathsheba asks if she wants a ride, or something to eat, Hushpuppy refuses.
Hushpuppy: When daddy kill me I won’t be forgotten. I’m recording my story for the scientists in the future. In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.
Daddy said mommy was so pretty she never even had to turn on the stove, she just walks in and all the water starts to boil.
Miss Bathsheba: That’s the most important thing I can ever teach you; you gotta look after people smaller and sweeter than you are.
State of Mind: That was freaking awesome. Uplifting and moving, I suspect it’s good I watched this before I moved up because it might be one of the arthouse movies Anna doesn’t want to see. But then, I’m totally going to watch it again so she may have to see it all the same.