Our hippest New York friends have been raving about this film, and thank heavens, because otherwise – with its funny title, eccentric subject matter and lack of coherent story line – it might have passed us by. But we discovered it to be a truly extraordinary gem, one which could easily be a left-field Oscar winner (it has scooped up award at Cannes and Sundance already). Based on a play called ‘Juicy and Delicious’, Beasts has a fairytale quality that mixes the fabulous with reality: it’s a beautiful, ferocious and confusing piece of poetry with no real moral, point or purpose. Yet it’s wholly captivating. We cried, we laughed, we wondered what the hell was going on. We loved it.
If pushed, we could say it was the story of six-year-old Hushpuppy (played with mesmerising charm by Quvenzhané Wallis) – a tiny, curious, sprite like creature who is petulant and loyal, scared and feisty all at once. She lives in a strangely vagrant off-the-grid community somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico – the ‘wrong side of the levee’, in a bayou the locals affectionately call ‘The Bathtub’. So random and remote is the location, it might be the future, the past, or the ransacked victim of a natural disaster. Hushpuppy lives alone in a makeshift hut near that of her wild, scary but protective father, a man whose heart is poisoning his body in a mysterious but vitriolic way. Soon, The Bathtub is hit by a violent storm that destructively rips through it. The survivors cast about, rejecting the support of the authorities, and try to make it on their own in a world where everything has died. What can be their fate possibly be? Is it surrealism or reality that takes control from then on – who can tell?
Hushpuppy, conflating tales from history, geography and science, envisions the ice caps crashing down with every crack of branch, whip of wind, and lash of rain. The continuously thundering beat of the hooves of pre-historic beasts racing towards her is a constant soundtrack in her mind. It injects the film with a magic-realist eco agenda, but to quite what end is uncertain.
Curiosity piqued? Simply prepare for the uniquely strange and utterly magical. Watch the trailer here…