Beasts of the Southern Wild is not realistic. It is most dreamlike, except when real things happen. One of these things is when the six year old girl named Hushpuppy sets the kitchen on fire. Until then, she had been careful enough to take out her flame proof helmet from her freezer in order to start the gas flame with a blow torch. But something bothered her enough to make her take a stand which involved burning her house down. Before that, she was just trying to cook herself some dinner.
This is just one of the scenes in the movie leaving the audience an emotional mess. You are torn between thinking logically when will an adult be a responsible parent to when will this brave little girl get to stop being seen as a child so that she can ditch the useless grown ups in her life. The logic is there, but it gets half way up your brain and then stops because logic is not operating in this movie.
Young children who are abandoned in one way or another must learn to take care of themselves. In this movie they learn not to feel sorry for themselves.
Among some of the questions I found myself asking were these. How can a boat made out of a pickup truck bed float? How did this girl of six learn to say her lines with such force and clarity that I went home reciting them in my own head?
If this is a reverie on children and people left behind to live in poverty, it has pretty brilliant visuals for the most part. For one thing it creates a place outside of the grid. The people here are independent, feral almost. They are the wild in the Southern wild. The beasts (that remind me a little of Maurice Sendak’s in Where the Wild Things Are) come to claim the land that has been ruined by the hurricane. People can’t live there anymore. As the actor who plays Wink, Hushpuppy’s father, says:
“He’s resilient,” Henry said, explaining why audiences are so drawn to Wink. “He’s a resilient person, and people love resilience — and people love people that stand behind and stand for things that they love more than anything in the world. And this group of people (in ‘Beasts’), they’re standing behind the things they love, the people they love, their culture their beliefs that they won’t leave under the worst circumstances in the world. These people won’t abandon the things they love more than anything in life.”
“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted.”
Still, it was hard watching Hushpuppy who never does anything wrong get beaten and abandoned by her father, and also watching a bunch of adults get sloppy drunk over and over again as if that is the only way to celebrate.