In “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a myth is spun through the logic of a young girl named Hushpuppy. We are introduced to a world similar to our own, but with scientific anomalies and poetry pulsing through each character. This civilization is about to be swept away – if not by a brewing storm then by the once extinct beasts called aurochs. Whether these giant creatures are real or just a metaphor, it doesn’t matter. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a fantastical story that is flooded with extreme realism. It’s hard to tell what is actually rational, what is part of this fictional Louisiana-type-bayou world, and what is being twisted because we are discovering this from the perspective of a child. But this does not make the story any less interesting or forceful.
Hushpuppy carries the movie. Portrayed by the talented seven-year-old, Quvenzhané Wallis, you are blown away by her power. Her acting abilities match and almost exceed the strength of her character; this alone makes the movie entertaining. But what makes the movie great is the mythical setting contrasted with shockingly human characters. The tension is palpable as a people totter on the edge of extinction.
The story is primarily about nature/life from a child’s perspective, which gives an honest look at the hardship of death. As Christians, we can recognize truths within the movie, but also where it falls short.
Hushpuppy deals with the loss of life throughout the movie. She progresses from the perspective of a food chain idea – what is bigger and stronger deserves to destroy what is smaller and weaker. She grows in her understanding, coming to the realization that there is value in even the small things and death is more than just physical, but an emotional and even spiritual separation. At one point she powerfully says, “Everything has to fit together just right. If it doesn’t, it all falls apart.” As Christians, I think we can see truth here. The movie falls short in that it doesn’t recognize that God is who gives this order and value to everything He has created, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. Everything needs to fit together; this is a testimony to God’s order in creation.
I also believe that as Christians it is right for us to be bitter towards death, or in a greater sense we should dread separation. We were created to not be alone and when death separates us, sorrow is natural and even good. We can appreciate the emphasis this movie puts on the pain of death and the longing we have as humans for when separation will be no more. As Christians, we know the beauty of heaven is that separation will be no more, not from our creator God or from any of his people. Life is worth fighting for and we are commanded to fight for life. This is the very thing we find in our Savior.
Death is an obvious enemy for Hushpuppy. Her solution is to learn to take care of others and courageously fight death until it’s too late. The determination not to give up and to fight for life may be an honorable one in the world’s eyes, but we can be thankful that this is not the only solution to death. God is the giver of life. If it were up to us to be courageous, we would all fail, and the idea of a young child facing death, and courageously defeating it, while a beautiful image, is not real or true. We are human and by our strength we will fail. Our courage will give out, our bodies will break, and we will be taken by death. It is only through Christ that death can be defeated. This movie can leave us being thankful that He has.
The whole film leads to one point – when Hushpuppy decides that she fits in nature as a creature that could easily be the last of her kind. I have never seen a story from the perspective of a child portrayed as realistically as in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” while still bringing force and truth. It is completely unique and aesthetically delightful. The power of the poetry and characters brings hope and truth.