Director: Benh Zeitlin
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis), Best Adapted Screenplay
It’s charming and unique, and features one of the more interesting parent-child relationships I’ve seen in a film. Taking place at a Louisiana bayou in a community named the “Bathtub,” this movie follows young child Hushpuppy, played by Quvenzhané Wallis in one of the best child performances in recent memory. She has a lot of dialogue and narration, and delivers all of it with the proper weight that comes with the words; Hushpuppy comes across as thoughtful and mature for her very young age. Her father is Wink, played equally as well by Dwight Henry. The two have their conflicts; Wink is not abusive or mean-spirited, but he is troubled. Wink is tempered and has problems with alcohol and his health. While he is sometimes angry, he is still shown to be very caring for Hushpuppy, even with some of his irrational behavior. One sequence has Wink leaving their home during a storm and “fending it off” with a shotgun to make Hushpuppy feel safer. Wink wants nothing more than for Hushpuppy to be safe and to grow into a stronger person. This movie is shot in a very visceral shaky-cam style. The concept of shaky-cam turns off many, but never did I feel annoyed or disoriented. In fact, I think this visual style made the movie for what it is. It gave the film a very naturalistic quality, and some of the sights of this environment were stunning. It is filmed in a way so that some of the more fantastical elements of the film, mainly sequences featuring “Aurochs” (presumably the titular “Beasts”) fit perfectly into the established aesthetic of the film. The community of the “Bathtub” is shown to be very vibrant from the get-go; its inhabitants are energetic and happy, and when conflict arises, they find a way to handle it all together. However, these inhabitants all basically function as extras and never grow into characters, even though they add to the energy of the movie.
Charming and emotional, this look at an interesting father and daughter relationship in a worn-down but vibrant environment is a unique and worthwhile tale.