The plot of Beast of the Southern Wild is almost impossible to give away because each and every viewer will come away with the “what does it all mean?” conundrum. Here is what I feel it means:
A six-year old daughter named Hushpuppy (Quhenzhane Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry) live in a poverty laced swamp in pre-Katrina Louisanna which they call the Bathtub. Instead of living on the wrong side of the tracks, they live on the wrong side of the levee, as they stare into the smoke stacks and factories that loom in the distance while fishing. Life is tough, but is about to get tougher: The storm is coming.
Wink, who is apparently dying, tries to teach his daughter to be a survivor because he knows that Hushpuppy will soon be on her own. During alcohol-fueled tirades, he teaches her how to fish, eat, and stand on her own two-feet, while Katrina bears down and eventually annihilates the area. Wink, Hushpuppy, and most of the residents the Bathtub survive the storm, but now they must survive the aftermath.
The movie has an apocalyptic undertone to it and we are shown through the eyes of Hushpuppy, polar ice caps melting and prehistoric animals, which are apparent metaphors for an unpleasant future on Earth. One has the feeling that somehow Hushpuppy will become the ultimate survivor.
Quhenzhane Wallis was picked to play the part out of a pool of 5,000 candidates and has been nominated by the Academy for an Oscar. She is the youngest person (six-years-old) to ever be nominated. Her facial expressions, ranging from wonder to anger, are a remarkable sight. Dwight Henry, who plays Wink, was a baker in New Orleans before he was chosen for the part. Director Benh Zeitlin has a real dark horse going into the Academy Awards. I recommend the movie.
(Rated PG-13; Running time 91 minutes.) Available at Redbox.
Reviewers Note: Beast has been nominated for Best Picture and Behn Zeitlin has been nominated for Best Director by the Academy.
My Rating: 4 out 5 Who Dat?