"incredibly refreshing to see a film that takes us to a place we’ve never been before"
For a film whose subject matter is ostensibly represented as quite tragic and emotional, BOTSW is a film that doesn’t wallow in what could easily be a heavy drama, instead the film is a celebration of life and the vibrancy of people.
Set in a fictitious Louisiana bayou dubbed the ‘Bathtub’ by it’s inhabitants, BOTSW tells the story of Hushpuppy, the young star of the film played by the incredible Quevenzhane Wallis who turns in a power house performance which is made all the more remarkable considering she was only 5 years old when she was cast. Through her eyes we witness events that threaten to destroy Bathtub as well as her own father Wink. With an impending storm approaching and her home on the brink of destruction as well as Wink suffering from an unspecified heart condition, Hushpuppy must come to terms with her place in the world and learn to take care of herself before her father inevitably passes away.
The film has a real sense of yearning and child like wonder about it, particularly because we see events from the perspective of Hushpuppy which adds a magical and unique dimension to the narrative. For someone who’s so young, Wallis portrays a cavalcade of emotion that surpass even some of the more esteemed adult actors working in the business today, ranging from joy to anger to sadness and I found myself captivated by her presence on screen.
Uncharacteristically for a young child, Hushpuppy is obsessed with the bigger picture of life and the universe, and documenting her story for the ‘scientists’. At one point she says ‘the whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right, if one piece busts even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted’. There’s a real intelligence to her way of thinking which occasionally strays into the existential simply making her character all the more fascinating.
Luckily though, every piece of this movie fits together just right, from the acting to the sublime musical score that was also composed by the films director Benh Zeitlin. BOTSW is truly something different and special, throughout the film, Wink constantly reminds Hushpuppy that crying is forbidden, however the final scenes bend the rules for characters and audience alike in an ending that's guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings.
It’s also incredibly refreshing to see a film that takes us to a place we’ve never been before, in this case the bayou community that exist on a small island. It’s one of those films where you can almost touch and smell the surroundings, the lush greenery of the island, the mounds of fresh shrimp and crab that are torn apart by the ravenous locals, it all creates a beautifully vivid portrait of an almost alien world. When one thinks of the third world they think of Africa and India, but we forget even in the super powers of the world like America that poverty exists, and not everyone has it easy. But BOTS is a testament to those who exist in that bracket, but thrive and more than that, they’re proud of who they are and where they live, a fact emphasised by Wink who after being evacuated by authorities and taken into shelter on the mainland, insists on breaking out and going home to spend his final moments there.
It's certainly an impressive debut for director Benh Zeitlin, who at the tender age of 29 already has Hollywood eating out the palm of his hand, with such a competent and professional film like Beasts under his belt I'm sure bigger and better things are on the horizon.