Last Updated on Thursday, 19 July 2012 11:21 Posted by Clash Friday, 20 July 2012 01:53
Film And DVD Reviews by Phil Boatwright
Dwight Henry as Wink and Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Drama. Written & directed by Benh Zeitlin. 6/27/12 92 min.
FILM SYNOPSIS: In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.
REVIEW: It may be the most depressing film I’ve ever seen. Well made, absorbing, with a wonderful performance by little Quvenzhane Wallis , but oh, my, depressing! I don’t mind viewing sorrow in movies, as it is an element of life that often connects us to one another. But I prefer a little spiritual satisfaction after the sorrow. Here, the hope given the audience is by way of the lead character’s ultimate connection with nature. That may be why secularists are so effusive about this film. It is about the humanity in people, but from a humanistic slant. In other words, God only enters their consciousness as an angry expletive. If we believe the Bible, nature will pass away, thus connecting with the creation rather than with the Creator is ultimately tragic, therefore making this a very sad film, indeed.
That’s not to say the film is without merit. Too often I go through my day without thinking much about those who live in such overwhelming poverty and ignorance. This film won’t let you do that. It hits you in the gut and the heart. But for someone trying to develop their daily walk with Christ, the saddest part of this film is that the characters featured don’t seem to know that there is a God. By film’s end, the lead character has come to the conclusion that she is a part of the universe around her. She has connected with the living beings around her, with nature itself. But no one has taught her of a loving God or a sacrificing Savior.
If one lives in such an unyieldingly disconsolate surrounding, he may argue that there is no God. That’s why the study of God’s Word is so important, as mankind’s troubles are discussed in scripture – and we all have troubles. We see through a glass darkly, but the Bible reminds us that we’re not alone or forgotten in the valley of shadows.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you: I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
In Matthew, Jesus reminds us, “…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
This will not sink into the hearts of man simply by reading a couple of verses. His Word must be read within the context of the chapters and studied with the aid of the Holy Spirit in order for it to connect with our spirit. It’s too bad more movies can’t emphasize the need to satisfy the hunger of the soul by showing a respect for biblical teaching. Why is it that so many creators of art ignore the Creator?
I was saddened by this movie, but after viewing it, I realized that it’s not poverty that drains the soul, but the feeling of hopelessness. That’s the reason my review has morphed into this sermonette. Prayerfully, I’m stressing the point that the best preparation for any battle is the consumption of information, and seeking of wisdom. The study of the Bible brings wisdom, for it is a book overflowing with information. Read it. Get others to read it. And constantly seek ways you can aid the physical needs of others. Did you hear that, Phil Boatwright?
PG-13 (for for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language, including both profanity and obscenity, and brief sensuality as we see men and women in a brothel; a violent storm destroys the homes of those living in the region and several lives are endangered, including children; a distraught father hits his child, but while this alcoholic man doesn’t know how to show his little girl affection, you sense that he has an abiding love for her; a mother has run off before the picture begins and the father is dying; he tries to teach her how to survive before he can no longer function.; we see dead animals after the water becomes poisoned by salt after the levy bursts; though there are no sexual situations, four children, each without a mother, come across a brothel; the prostitutes reach out lovingly to these orphans and the orphans reach out, wanting a mother figure; To cope with their lack of everything and their ignorant ways, most the adult characters are hard drinkers; it can be said that the presentation of alcohol in this film is anything but glamorous).
DVD Alternatives: To Kill A Mockingbird. This beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with its haunting score by Elmer Bernstein may be the best adaptation of a book into a film I’ve ever seen. Horton Foote's Oscar-winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl is simple in its delivery, but nonetheless brilliant in its effect. Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch was never better.
Sounder. Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, Kevin Hooks. Rated G. This stirring story of a black sharecropper's family during the Depression was nominated for Best Picture in 1972, along with the lead actors. Truly marvelous.
Ponette (1997) French with subtitles. Not rated (3 or 4 obscenities, but I caught no misuse of God's name; adult subject matter as the lost of a parent and subsequent unhappy searching for her mother may disturb children). After the death of her mother, a child attempts to understand where her mother is and believes if she can get close enough to God, He will send the mother back. Sometimes difficult to view, as we are frustrated that we cannot relieve her sadness, but it is an insightful look at the world of children, with an uplifting ending and powerful performances by the three lead children. There’s also a positive portrayal of a Christian woman as she relates the story of Christ to this little one. Four-year-old Victoire Thivisol won the 1996 Venice Film Festival Best Actress. How they got such a dynamic, moving performance out of this cherub is beyond me, but even if she never does another thing, this little girl has greatly contributed to the world of art and the spirit of man.
Phil Boatwright celebrates 25 years of writing about Hollywood from a Christian perspective. Besides providing a monthly column for Baptist Press, he reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He also is a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In it," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group, which also publishes WORLD Magazine.
For information about Phil Boatwright, go to moviereporter.com.
Profanity – God’s name followed by a curse or the abusive use of Christ’s name
Obscenity – a swear word, indecent language
Expletive – minor curse words such as damn or hell
Crudity – vulgar, often coarse situations or dialogue dealing with bodily functions
Adult Subject Matter – situations or subjects unsuitable for or difficult to comprehend by children