2012 Running time: 93 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4

Synopsis

On the damper side of the Louisiana levees lies 'the Bathtub', a spit of land that is home to poor but carefree spirits like six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry). So when a storm threatens to flush them out, there ain't nobody gonna leave without a fight. Batten down for an elemental yet occasionally fantastical tale of resilience and defiance that swept the festival crowds off their feet.

Director

  • Benh Zeitlin

Cast

  • Quvenzhané Wallis

  • Dwight Henry

  • Levy Easterly

  • Lowell Landes

  • Gina Montana

Review

Centring on a headstrong tomboy, totally at one with nature, and unafraid to rub shoulders with otherworldly beasts, this extraordinary tale from the bayou is what you might expect from Japan's Studio Ghibli if they ever turned from animation to live action.

Creating a palpable sense of atmosphere, writer-director Benh Zeitlin plunges us into 'the Bathtub', a joyously loose community of shanty dwellers unconcerned with wealth, health and safety legislation or drainage.

So prepare to taste the dirt, smell the shrimp and wring out your socks as wild child Hushpuppy (precocious newcomer Wallis, looking like a refugee from Thundercats) and her cranky daddy Wink (fellow non-professional Henry) deal with the aftermath of an almighty storm.

Everyone knew it was coming. But, proud and a mite crazy (maybe on account of all that hooch they chug), the Bathtubbers aren't about let a little water and the "pussies" from across the levee shift them from their home.

Man, woman or child, they take everything in their stride. So when Wink disappears without a word, Hushpuppy thinks nothing of it. But, when he returns a couple of days later in a hospital gown, she knows something isn't right. Fact is, he's dying.

All the more reason to fight for the only way of life she knows, then. Besides, being permanently surrounded by rotting wildlife, everyone here treats death as nothing more than an occasionally unwelcome neighbour.

Although the remarkable Wallis leaves Hushpuppy's defiance in no doubt, Zeitlin underlines it through regular encounters with prehistoric aurochs, the giant, horned hogs that once dominated the land.

While those episodes are completely surreal, others on Hushpuppy's adventure come mighty close: a detour to a floating barbecue-bordello, a bomb made from an alligator; there's even a kind of prison break.

Wafty conclusion notwithstanding, it's a visceral and absorbing journey into a world that's preternaturally strange but so real you can taste it.

One to be hunted down and savoured.

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