I finally got the chance to see one of the most well reviewed films of the year. And might I say, it did not disappoint.
To say this is one of the best films of the year is very much correct. But it shouldn’t be left at just that phrase because it not only is one of the best films of the year but also one of the most powerful in the last few YEARS.
We follow the story of Hushpuppy, a six year old girl who lives in what is known as “the Bathtub”, with her father. You can immediately tell that this environment is very poor and very much destroyed. And I could pick up the parallels that the filmmaker was trying to make to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
This film is a tough one to take in and reminds me a lot of Terrence Malick’s early film, Days of Heaven. This comparison mainly stems from the fact that you are thrown into a society of immense poverty and the filmmaker doesn’t hold back when it comes to making you become one with the struggles that the characters face. There is no easy road and there is no easy life. Director Benh Zeitlin takes us into Hushpuppy’s life and shows that this little girl knows how to survive in this environment and is a character that we can root for because of her amazing resilience.
The star of the show has to be Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy. This little girl gives an incredibly moving performance as a young girl living in these horrible conditions. Her father (Dwight Henry) is dealing with sickness as well as the changes happening in the environment, does a wonderful job of being 1) very rough and stern with Hushpuppy 2) a strong father. While he may come across as being a mean or hard hearted, he is trying his best to be a father for her in such a tough society.
The real pleasures of this film come from both the visuals and the music. The visuals remind me a lot of Terrence Malick’s work. Zeitlin focuses more on the emotions and visual memories of Hushpuppy and her society rather than just how the people are feeling. I love that about this film because like a Malick film you know the director is wanting us to be invested and somewhat inspired by what these people are trekking through. The score is fantastic and easily one of the best I’ve heard so far this year. It can have a pulsating feel or give you the uplifting feeling of joy even in the darkest of places.
The biggest triumph that this film has is the fact that it doesn’t enclose poverty as to being a terrible thing. It tries to show you that while it is hard, it still is full of people, great people, and life is still happening. I came out thinking that while some people were saying that the film glorified poverty, I felt like it showed the still happiness and joyful emotion within the confines of a tough situation.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this piece of art. Not only are you given powerful performances by Hushpuppy and her father but you are visually blown away with the work of director Benh Zeitlin and makes me a fan of the work he will do in the future. I have a tough time seeing this making noise at the Oscars only because the Academy seems to look away from films that have such a broken storyline or one that doesn’t really stick to a straight path. But I hope some awards go it’s way especially a nom for Best Actress in Wallis.