Or: Where the wild things are.
2012 has turned out to be a very “wet” year for cinema: we got movies like The Impossible (for which you can read my review here), Life of Pi (for which you can read my review here) and this wonderful fantasy-cum-drama tale from Benh Zeitilin, who before this had only done three short movies.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, currently nominated for four Oscars (Best Movie, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay) is the story of a young girl living in a Louisiana bayou community named “The Bathtub”. Their community is cut off from the rest of the world by a levee and they’re forced to survive on their own. However, as the movie kicks off, the sense of community, the pride and the love the people share for this place makes it perfectly clear that they’re more than willing to live here and they would not trade their piece of land for anything. Not even for the oncoming storm which threatens their lives.
Hushpuppy (played by Oscar-nominee and first-time actress, Quvenzhané Wallis) lives alone with her father as their mother just up and decided to “swim away” one day. She spends her time listening to animals’ heartbeats and learning in school about the aurochs, an ancient race of pre-domesticated cattle.
As the storm hits, the sense of family and community gushes out of the beautiful scenes in which they share meals, they share their daily tasks of fixing what is left of the Bathtub’s only house, while we, along with Hushpuppy, are forced to accept her father’s rapidly deteriorating health.
What fascinates and fills one with wonder here is not the overt symbolism between the coming of the aurochs (which, as Hushpuppy puts it, happened because she did something wrong) and the characters’ struggle for survival but the warm-heartedness of the tale and, for lack of a better word, how edulcorated everything is. It’s layered with a thick coat of “feel good” paint even when things seem desperate.
As Hushpuppy’s world crumbles around her, she finds strength in animals and, really, this is what the movie is all about: how attuned to nature and to her fellow animals she is and how important is to fight for one’s beliefs and faith and Quvenzhané Wallis does such an excellent job at bringing everything to closure around her and she truly holds the weight of the movie on her 6 year-old (at the time) shoulders. This, my friends, is truly an actress to look out for and one of the best movies of 2012, only marred by the small quip that I felt it should’ve been a bit shorter and more condensed.