Title – Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Year of Release – 2012
Genre – Drama
“I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes things right.”
Idling away the weekend, besides a bit of reading, I happened to watch this movie recommended by a friend. (He had heard rave reviews about it too, so we watched it together). Movie night was planned impromptu, and at just about an hour an a half long, this movie seemed like an apt choice. Beasts Of The Southern Wild is an American drama film helmed by director Benh Zeitlin, who has also co-written and co-scored the movie. It is an adaptation of Lucy Alibar’s play “Juicy And Delicious.”
“Everybody loses the thing that made them. The brave stay and watch it happen. They don’t run.”
A storm is approaching a southern Louisiana bayou community called “Bathtub“. The forgotten but defiant little community is cut out from the rest of the world by a levee. Six year old Hushpuppy lives with her father Wink in different “homes” – the father wants the child to learn to be independent and ensures she stays in a separate house, across another structure where he lives. Wink is an alcoholic, hot tempered, afflicted with a blood condition, and wants his daughter to fend for herself in the advent of his death. Hushpuppy doesn’t find the comfort she seeks in her only family, and spends most of the day by herself listening to animals, and having imaginary conversations with her absentee mother. (Her father told her she “swam away” – Hushpuppy does not know whether mum is dead or abandoned them.)
“I can count the number of times I’ve been lifted up on two fingers.”
In school, the children are taught by Miss Bathsheba about nature, the role of all living creatures in it, global warming, and the release of prehistoric aurochs from the melting ice caps. Hushpuppy believes the natural world is in balance with the universe, and if one little thing goes off, the entire universe has to rearrange itself to maintain balance. That’s how all living organisms are connected to each other. When the storm approaches, most of the residents of Bathtub flee. The remaining ones decide to rebuild their community, but the environment is damaged – trees have fallen, livestock have died, the salt water surge from the storm has contaminated the fresh water supply.
“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest…the entire universe will be busted.”
As she grows aware of her father’s deteriorating health, Hushpuppy sets out in search of her mother (who had left when she was a baby). But she needs to return to her dying father. And also confront the aurochs who have now emerged from the melted ice blocks and entered Bathtub. On the brink of orphanhood, Hushpuppy has to learn to survive, even if that means being the only survivor on the planet. (Like her father has trained her). The tiny hero’s survival skills, her strength and wisdom, form the highlight of the movie.
“When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.”
The fictional Bathtub is a reminder of several small, independent communities that are threatened by rising sea levels and other natural disasters. The story and characters stand out superbly. Lead actress Quvenzhané Wallis was six when the film was shot, but her presence is fierce – the anger and wisdom with which she carries her performance betray her age. The ferociousness of the young protagonist is unforgettable. The movie begins with her narrating – “I’m recording my story for the scientists of the future. In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.” And Hushpuppy stays with you long after the movie.
The soundtrack is phenomenal and carries the movie forward every step of the way. The music is poignant and addictive. Most of the tracks are by Dan Romer and (director-writer) Benh Zeitlin.
The film won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, and also the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It was nominated for four awards at the 85th Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay and best actress. At age nine, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest best actress nominee in the history of the awards. Sometimes movies are not just to entertain or pass the time, they move you in unprecedented ways. A must watch movie that tugs at your heartstrings.
Rating – 5/5