Everybody loses the thing that made them. It’s even how it’s supposed to be in nature. The brave men stay and watch it happen, they don’t run- Hushpuppy
The age of Best Actress nominees this year ranges from 90 years old to 6 years old (when Beasts of a Southern Wild was filmed) which is an amazing fact. Of all the pictures nominated for best picture this year, Beasts of a Southern Wild is the one I wanted to see most. I was not necessarily interested in the entire film itself, I was mainly interested in the six year old star that managed to command the screen for ninety three minutes.
The film is told from the point of view of six year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis). Living with her father in the Bathtub, an area in the Louisiana bayou. A rather unconventional community, the people of the Bathtub work together to fend for themselves. Hushpuppy lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry), who is tough and seems to be mentally unstable but loves his daughter very much. Hushpuppy’s mother left the two alone when Hushpuppy was very young. Hushpuppy is obsessed with finding her mother. This film, in my opinion, is told in three acts. The first introduces us to the Bathtub and all the people in it. It is in this act that we learn about Wink’s failing health. The second act comes with a literal storm, a storm that horribly floods the Bathtub. Hushpuppy and her father stay through the storm and attempt to survive in the severely flooded area. When the flood begins to kill everything, the people of the Bathtub take matters into their own hands. The final act looks at life after the flood as Wink’s health deteriorates and Hushpuppy may have to face life without him.
Hushpuppy is clearly the main character of this film and Wallis is on screen almost the entire time. I do not understand how director Benh Zeitlin got a six year old to do what she did but Wallis commanded the film. Much of the story was told through voice over but Wallis is able to add to the story with her body language and actions. Wallis’ nomination for Best Actress was not a fluke or a gimmick, it was well deserved. Wallis gave an amazing performance, out acting every other actor in the film. What I thought was fascinating was that the whole film was from Hushpuppy’s perspective, a hard thing for veteran actors to do, but Wallis makes it look easy.
While this is a rough, odd, experimental film, it also had a folksy, fairy tale element to it. I don’t know if it was because it was told from the point of view of a child but there was something grand and magical about the film. Ultimately thought this film is about life. Hushpuppy is constantly talking about life and the world, listening to the heartbeat of any animal or person she encounters. The sounds of heartbeats permeate the film’s soundtrack, a running theme for the film. The shots themselves are full of life. The screen composition is always teeming with people and animals and plants. The film, much like the Bathtub, is overflowing with life.
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, I have heard many people speak out skeptically against this film. Because it has such a young actress and a unique filming technique, some think that the film was not nominated based on merit but simply due to its uniqueness. I can honestly say that is not true. Zeitlin deserved his nomination as much as the film as a whole did. Personally I am torn between Quvenzhane Wallis and Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. This film was a unique and emotional experience, one of those movies that you will never forget watching. I give it a 9 out of 10 and can say that it is a strong contender for this Oscar season.