Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

"I've got it under control" insists Wink, one of the characters of Beasts of the Southern Wild.  The clearer it became that this wasn't true, the more fervent his insistence became.  He could take on anything.  He could protect his daughter.  He could stay in his home, no matter what.  When a problem presented itself, he could fix it and make everything go back to the way it was. 

Or, he couldn't.

Affected most by Wink's need for control, of course, is his daughter Hushpuppy, the film's protagonist.  Hushpuppy stays by her father through thick and thin, even when she's clearly not sure about it.   Quvenzhan√© Wallis plays Hushpuppy with such a fierce focus that you think that even as a six-year-old she can take on the world if she has to.  She's a truly engaging character, making sense of the world around her as best she can through the lenses given her by the adults in her life.

The film has an ugly/beautiful aesthetic, focusing on not only the mundane but on the grotesque: bloated, bug-eaten animal corpses, squalid living conditions, plugged-into-a-wall hospital patients.  The filming style is unflinching, from both visually and emotionally complicated and even horrid scenarios and scenes.  Even for an at times fantastical film, everything is presented in a very matter-of-fact, this is how it is way. 

I've read some criticism that says the film glorifies poverty or demonizes government or charity control of situations, but I don't see that.  If the film glorifies anything, it's family and those people who come together after a terrible situation, any terrible situation, and stick together through it all.

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