Review originally written for the Doha Film Institute website.
A father’s health is deteriorating, melting ice-caps are flooding while unleashing ancient beasts and six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) must learn to remain strong and independent facing inevitable darker days. The future of the swamp community is at risk of vanishing through and because of nature.
Hushpuppy lives with her challenging and dying father Wink (Dwight Henry) somewhere at the edge of the world in a slums-like place called the Bathtub. As he feels his time approaching, Wink prepares his only daughter to battle life on her own, and prepare her to be fearless in front of nature’s rage. His means are harsh as the changes in the climate that are about to manifest themselves.
Hushpuppy is no ordinary child; she’s a strong-headed little genius who knows more about the philosophy of life than adults would. As much as she feels safe in the presence of her father, she understands why he pushes her away from him, making sure she manages to survive without his support. But through this wobbly relationship motivated by love, unforgettable moments of genuine affection are stolen and simply breathtaking.
Hushpuppy’s innocent wisdom and instinctive powers are the drives to her ongoing curiosity. Learning continuously about life, she captures every little creature she sees to hear their heartbeat, connecting with them…with the signs of being alive … now that her father’s heartbeats are irregular.
It’s a philosophical journey from the perception of a child facing the worse that life can offer. Time and space are irrelevant; it’s a place where humans willingly choose to become one with nature, where they are reduced to the most instinctive of feelings and skills. They can leave to where beds are clean and food is available. But no, what nature offers them is invaluable like an unrevealed secret.
No matter how many pages I’d fill describing the exceptional – no I mean theINCOMPARABLE – performance of Quvenzhané Wallis, it won’t do her justice. She was only five when she went to the casting, a year younger than required but managed to sneak in. She had such a strong effect that the dialogue has been modified to fit her intrepid character. Speculations are that she’s probably going to become the youngest Oscar-nominated actress in a leading role.