Wasp, Andrea Arnold’s 2005 Oscar winning short from the UK, was perhaps one of the most gut wrenching experiences I’ve ever had viewing anything. Visual images transformed into physical responses and I watched with my mouth hanging open for a great part of it, squirming in anxiety for what tragedy might befall the characters next. It was that intense.
From the very first scene, I was queasy. The director’s angled shots were partly to blame for this; they followed the characters down the stairs like an eyeball constantly circling its surroundings. But the next, clearer, images of the children in tattered, dirty clothing and unkempt hair, and the baby without diapers in the arms of his barefoot mother made me just as unsettled. The fierce wrestle between her and another woman in the neighborhood was making it worse. But, lo and behold, I found that I was already rooting for someone.
I had barely “met” this woman and yet I was invested. The neighbor was pinning her down, and since I hadn’t been able to focus on the initial mother due to the frazzled nature of the filming, I started rooting for the wrong side and was hopeful that she was “winning.” But, I quickly recalled that she wore a distinct blue nighty, the only piece of her I could recognize, and realized, “Oh, no…she’s not,” simultaneously feeling silly that I was reacting this way in the first place.
It’s like that thing they say about pets, like chicks, that they call whoever they meet first their mother. I saw her first and had faith in her. With every scene, that faith was slipping, but I didn’t give up. I just wanted to know more. I just wanted to know her story, the who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s? Who was Mark? Did he really leave her? And for what? Where did he go? Why is she in this position? How does she still afford a home? These were left unanswered but I’m not dissatisfied with the short, I think I can choose my own “alternate ending,” so glad that it’s fiction and not documentary and I have that mental option.
I’m also so glad those children are “fine.” I kept jumping to conclusions that one would suffer a car accident, be molested, or something worse that I couldn’t predict. These children were in the worse possible, broken family situation as it were, and yet they loved their mother with every ounce of their light and fragile bodies. But sometimes, like a wasp, love stings.