FILM REVIEW: EVE'S BAYOU
For years, I had heard of Eve’s Bayou only in references such as, “Oh, was it an Eve’s Bayou type of family?” I had heard of the salacious details and nothing else. So, when I finally decided to watch the film, I was shocked by its complexity. It was a movie not so much about scandal, but rather the imperfection of memory and family, all held in the gothic beauty of Louisiana.
Eve’s Bayou, the 1997 directorial debut of Kasi Lemons, follows 10-year-old Eve Batiste and her family. The first thing that struck me about the film is the diverse range of skin tones and hair colors within this family. As a Black woman, I often find depictions of family, both nuclear and extended, to lack the true diversity seen within many Black families. The beauty of both the cast and the property both brought me joy and satisfaction. Too often in film, we only see the Southern Black experience through the eyes of slaves. But, from the first scene onward in Eve's Bayou, we see a different narrative, one of personal and ancillary experience without the omnipresent feeling of the white gaze. Eve interacts with her family and the outside world without the trauma of racism. However, that does not mean that trauma isn’t explored throughout the film. It is done in a way much like Toni Morrison’s writing, one that isn’t reliant on pain caused by white people to explain morality to white audiences.
While the movie is driven by child actors, it never strays away from handling robust emotionally complex themes, an approach could have been a disaster because of the focus on youth. But, the direction and artistic style take off the burden of maturity from the children's acting by making several scenes more childlike. The blending of these more severe themes with the levity of childlike wonder helps to make in themes more potent. In addition, the adult actors provide great performances. The characters are all fully realized, providing a portrait of a family, flaws and all. My personal favorite side plot follows Mozelle Batiste, a witchy aunt who has the power of clairvoyance. The writing is so beautifully crafted that all of the characters feel fully actualized and are allowed to play off of each other.
Eve’s Bayou is a beautiful exploration of Black girlhood, family trauma, and the confusion of youth. It weaves a tale that fully shows the complexity of Black American life without the white gaze. The pain throughout this movie is shown with a moral greyness and in my opinion, is one of the greatest pieces of Southern Gothic media out there.