Beasts of the Southern Wild - hard times through the eyes of a childJuly 13, 2012 @ 10:48 am (Updated: 11:05 am - 7/13/12 )
There's something magical and mysterious about a 6-year-old's view of the world, especially when that 6-year-old lives on the very edges of the world as she does in the fictional tale, "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Her name is Hushpuppy, played by the remarkable Quvenzhane Wallis, and she lives with her down-on-his-luck father in the swampy Louisiana bayou, amidst a scattered community of society's rejects. They all live in rundown shacks in a place they've dubbed the Bathtub because it's out beyond the levees, levees built to protect everyone else and isolate them.
They have learned to be self-reliant, living by their wits as best they can. With no obvious sources of income, they survive by fishing the ever-present waters and raising whatever animals they can get their hands on.
Hushpuppy is blissfully unaware of her abject poverty and has developed a wise-beyond-her-years philosophy of life: "When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me, flying around in invisible pieces. I see that I'm a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes things right."
Hushpuppy has a strained relationship with her father who loves her as best he can but he's battling his own demons, so she's left to fend for herself a lot of the time. She has to heat a pot of food, for instance, with a rusty blowtorch. He's hard on her but he's teaching her the survival skills she'll need to get by without him, even showing her how to catch catfish with one's bare hands.
When a hurricane is spotted on the horizon, many flee to higher ground inside the levees but Hushpuppy and her dad are among a hardy group of souls who decide to stand their ground. How they cope in the aftermath of this hurricane is harrowing and heroic, equal parts inspiring and despairing. The characters who stick it out have a strong sense of place, an almost mystical sense of home that trumps all else.
The film shares that appreciation. It exudes a sense of place like few other films. It's as if we're living in those haphazard shacks; we too are chugging through the floodwaters in a makeshift boat made from the bed of a pick-up truck, floating on top of empty barrels tied together. And in an absolutely gorgeous scene, we also share in a do-it-yourself fireworks display that puts most 4th of July celebrations to shame.
By movie's end, we've learned to see their world not through our own jaded eyes but through the eyes of Hushpuppy who knows fear and danger but also joy.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is more folktale than straight story, and Hushpuppy is its folk hero, a little girl with a very big view of the world: "I'm recording my story for the scientists in the future. In a million years, when kids go to school. they're gonna know there once was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub."
Bonneville Media encourages site users to express their opinions by posting comments. Our goal is to maintain a civil dialogue in which readers feel comfortable. At times, the comments can descend to personal attacks. Please do not engage in such behavior. We encourage your thoughtful comments which: have a positive and constructive tone, are on topic, are respectful toward others and their opinions. Bonneville reserves the right to remove comments which do not conform to these criteria.