“Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Dwight Henry, gives a performance of profound hurt, rage and sadness as [Hushpuppy’s] father, Wink.
Dying of an unnamed disease (perhaps because he lacks health insurance?) Wink flips between toughening, shielding and ignoring his daughter in preparing her for his inevitable demise.
Watching a man clearly better suited to raising a boy than a girl struggle with this responsibility is one of the movie’s chief joys.
It is also unsettling to see such a hard-edge view of parenthood.
As the center of a dreamy, surreal film that melds fantasy with neo-realism Wink is our connection to the harsh world outside their ramshackle home in a bayou neighborhood called the Bathtub. He is a respected leader in a community of misfits.
On the mainland he’s just another poor black man with anger issues.
The director, Benh Zeitlin, and Lucy Alibar, co-writer of the screenplay with Mr. Zeitlin, created the platform for a performance that is uncomfortably human, unsentimental and not easily sympathetic.
If judged crudely as positive or negative, Wink’s behavior would be labeled, on the facts of the case, as negative.
Which would be silly. Mr. Henry portrays a wounded warrior, a tough-love nurturer and a working-class man who is so rare on screen that, next to Hushpuppy’s brightness, we can barely see his humanity.
Don’t expect to see a lot of characters as tough, dark and loving as Wink anytime soon.
Writing and performances this brave are rare, magical occurrences. We can only hope for more.”