Written by: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Produced by: Michael Gottwald Dan Janvey, Josh Penn
Runtime: 93 minutes
Innocence and experience in life – that is what we see in the eyes of Hushpuppy. Raised in a community located near a water basin they all call the Bathtub, Hushpuppy realizes the majesty of life and everything around her through her tumultuous relationship with his father Wink. In the process, through her father, her friends, her father’s friends, and her own experiences and views in life, she undergoes the slow burning growth to become the “man” that her father wants to be. At the same time, big black beasts from the melted ice caps of the Polar Regions embark on a journey to go to Hushpuppy.
Like Hushpuppy, the film itself is full of life and is very soulful. The film’s pace is set in an unstoppable movement where every scene is packed with synergy and vibrancy without making it a tiring film to watch. And actually, it is loose enough for me to sense the free-flowing nature of the film. And it is largely due to the direction’s fresh take on a very different, if not actually original, concept.
Each scene feels new and treated with the foreknowledge of the need for it to feel like it has life in itself. Benh Zeitlin’s direction makes the film different and recognizable from any other film from this year or even from any year. The film also benefits from a really rich screenplay that effectively paints out the sincerity of the words of Hushpuppy as she sees the world in her eyes. It is the creativity and imagination very much present in this tale that makes the film work unlike any other movie.
The film is also technically proficient. The cinematography is very much in great help to further certify the freshness of the treatment in the material. The editing weaves the shots with tightness and looseness at the same time that makes the feel of each scene very organic. The visual effects used are also noteworthy piece of work, seamlessly mixing the two contrasting worlds of Hushpuppy and the beasts into one milieu that constitutes the magical realism part of the plot. The music used is as fresh as the direction; it sets the film into a triumphant mood, a work that celebrates the spontaneity of life and everything that makes life the wonder that it is.
But in everything that I have said about this film, we are all left with two things that make the film a very emotionally affecting one: Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.
Much has been said about this little girl Quvenzhané, and I will not digress. She is an undeniably strong force of nature that is essentially the heart of the creative ingenuity seen in the film. The understanding that she puts into the character of Hushpuppy manifests in every scene; she does not merely bank on her adorable face to reach out to the audience. She uses intellect when she acts to effectively convey her sadness, her amazement, her joy, her anger. She is captivating in every sense of the word which makes me wish only the best for the actress; for I believe that she will not be a one-hit wonder if we base it in this performance because she has proven herself with this one.
But not to be neglected is her also great scene partner Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy’s father Wink. The rawness of his line delivery effectively supplements Wallis’ very natural creation of Hushpuppy. He does not go for the easy way out by simply supporting Wallis. He fully realizes the potential of the character Wink and he takes it that he invests enough selflessness for us to believe the father figure that he is: a persona of a man needed to be tough for him to give his child the care that she needs.
In the end, we are left with a film that possesses a certain amount of inventiveness and inspiration that makes it a very different film. It is a weird film, and for all the good reasons. It is unlike any other film that I have seen before. Here is a small film that has a very complete vision that takes filmmaking on a whole new level.
For this, the film gets:
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