Beasts of the Southern Wild
(Riveting, ethereal survival tale)
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is a six-year-old girl who lives in The Bathtub, a Godforsaken piece of land in the Louisiana bayous, within sight of the levee and the smoky factories of the city. Life is tough in The Bathtub, especially for Hushpuppy who lives alone in a rundown shack, while her abusive and somewhat off-kilter father lives within shouting distance in a rundown trailer.
Hushpuppy dreams of her mother and fantasizes about the ice age, the melting of the icebergs, the appearance of extinct animals, and what her place in all of this means. There is a strange relationship between father and daughter. Wink (Dwight Henry) keeps his physical and emotional distance from his daughter, occasionally lashing out at her both physically and verbally.
But Hushpuppy is a survivor, existing on crabs and crayfish from the dirty waters of the bayou and playing among the filthy surroundings. At night she sits in the background, watching her father and friends drink themselves into oblivion.
A vicious storm wipes out their habitat, as they float around the rising waters in a makeshift boat, vowing to never leave. They live in Hell, but know no other place and wouldn't think of venturing to the city.
This riveting film is told through the eyes of Hushpuppy, who is wise beyond her years but still a child looking for love. Her father scolds her to never cry, and in his own way makes her stronger, knowing that he is not long for this world.
When the remaining inhabitants are taken to a hospital, they can't deal with the modern civilization, wondering why the patients are "plugged into the wall.” They rebel, escape and return to what we would call a miserable existence. But that is all they know, and that is their home.
The movie is not always pleasant to watch. It is filled with hopelessness and despair. But it is also uplifting as we see the bond between father and daughter and the strength of a young girl who faces her demons and survives.
Rated PG-13, with some profanity and a close look at a difficult existence that most of us cannot even imagine.