Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.
Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in the Bathtub, a southern Delta community at the edge of the world. Wink's tough love prepares her for the unraveling of the universe; for a time when he's no longer there to protect her. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack, temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. With the waters rising, the aurochs coming, and Wink's health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
The film was the recipient of two San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation grants--first in 2010 and again in 2011. See more »
Hushpuppy is sharing food with her dad, but she has crumbs on the corners of her lips already. See more »
All the time, everywhere, everything's hearts are beating and squirting, and talking to each other the ways I can't understand. Most of the time they probably be saying: I'm hungry, or I gotta poop.
[listening to bird's heartbeat]
But sometimes they be talkin' in codes.
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What is so difficult to understand? If we suspend belief for Spiderman, The Hulk and King Kong why can't we believe in this story?
I wonder whether some viewers are so addicted to the rhythm of plot driven movies to render them unable to appreciate a story like this, a story that sees the world through the eyes of a child who knows nothing of what we know. If you are one of those, go read somewhere else. I am not going to give you a synapse but my humble opinion on its meaning and possibly its intent. Or more surely, what I got out of it.
The beauty of this movie lies in Hushpuppy, a child young enough to be nonjudgmental, and her vision of life and its inhabitants. She has her own wisdom and is, like all children, taking things quite literally.
At first the hand-held camera-work and insufficient light-fill to illuminate the deep shades gave me the impression that this was a documentary style movie, a story reporting the lives of a group of people living off the grid in some southern state of the United States. But when I understood that the "Beasts" of the title was not a judgment of the movie's humans and their poverty, their ignorance, their unsophistication- but only an alternate noun for "animals" which the protagonists calls both her pets and humans alike, I started seeing the movie for what it really is: A dream, a fantasy, an imaginary story that merged with the contemporary awareness of global warming, and so a low tech sci-fi prediction of how the world may soon become.
With that key I read most character's actions: the father figure who needs to train his child to survive, inciting her "to show her guns" and be self assured; the woman who teaches children the use of herbs to cure, the meaning of magic and mythology; the tolerance of the other adults for what, in a parallel reality, would definitively been child abuse. All this is righteously done to prepare the children to survive in a world that was(is?) going from merely hard to impossible.
Wink's seemingly unsentimental and insensitive behavior towards the little wee child makes then perfect sense and thus his letting go when she can keep at bay, the Aurochs (a metaphor for her still childlike imagination) and her ability to step out of that world and into that of an adult ("I've got to take care of mine now") is the proof that she had grown up enough to survive on her own.
Looking back to it, this movie is a miracle as improbable as that of La Vita é Bella, where Benigni infused humor in a story about the Holocaust without becoming offensive or demeaning. Beasts of a Southern Wild is able to merge a child's world with that of an adult; to make us see how the effects of global warming will challenge the lives of many; it is a comment and a reminder of Katrina, its victims and consequences; finally it is a poetic way of describing the world and its inhabitants, escaping the ugliness and despair of certain realities by converting it into hope, survival and beauty.
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