One trend you can follow is just how long certain art house films hang around seemingly well past the typical run length. Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of those films. It’s been out locally now for quite a long while. I was intrigued by the previews and the incredibly solid reviews including several news stories calling it an odd-on favorite for a serious Oscar nod.
I finally got the chance to see it last night. The movie is the story of a small girl (played by Quvenzhané Wallis), perhaps about seven or eight years-old who lives outside the city of New Orleans beyond the levees in a destitute area known as “the bathtub”. Here life is measured in ways most of us can’t even fathom. It’s probably as close to a poor third-world country as anyone here gets. She and her father live in a ramshackle collection of rusting trailer parts with a curious boat made out of the rear bed of an old pick-up truck.
Their lives are as simple as simple can get and, of course, the wonders of a child’s mind creates for it a sense of normalcy—that this is how the world is, was and always will be. Nothing about their lives is abnormal, different or lacking as far as she’s concerned. The only thing she misses is her mother who’s mysteriously absent and yet—not.
The story, it seems, takes place around the time of Katrina. Once the storm hits this already-limited network of people have to resort to even more creative ways to survive and we see it all unfold through her eyes.
The movie is filled with insightful monologues from Hushpuppy (as the little girl is known) that never cease to impress.
Hushpuppy has to take the world as it comes and doesn’t have much time for things like tears or regrets. She faces her biggest fears in a conceptualized manner that’s purely symbolic but also powerful.
The stars of the film all seem entirely genuine. In fact, so much so that I have a hard time believing they’re anything but the real deal filmed on location. They aren’t. They’re all actors and that’s a major compliment.
My only real issue with the film is that it has a tendency to drag on a bit. It also took a while to grab me so it’s not for viewers who need some quicker gratification.