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Film / Wasp (2003)

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Wasp is a 2003 short film (26 minutes) directed by Andrea Arnold.

Zoe (Natalie Press) is a single mother living in grim poverty in a drab Council Estate in the industrial town of Dartford. Despite being no older than her late 20s, she has four children, ranging in age from a baby to about ten years. Although her terrible poverty is part of the problem, Zoe is a bad mother. She lets her kids wander around unsupervised, and when the bread in the cupboard is found to be moldy, she gives her children the only other edible thing in the apartment: sugar straight from a bag.

After getting into a pathetic Cat Fight with a neighbor lady after their children got into a fight, Zoe runs into David, an old acquaintance. David is hardly a prize—he drives a junk heap of a car, he's unemployed, he lives with his mom—but to a desperate Zoe he comes off as Prince Charming. She agrees to meet him for drinks at a pub, which poses a difficulty, as there is no one to look after her kids. So Zoe, hungry for some fun and companionship, takes her kids to the pub. Then she leaves them in the parking lot. For hours.

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See also Fish Tank, a feature film by Andrea Arnold that is a quasi-Perspective Flip, telling a similar story of a single mom living in a council flat with her kids, but from the perspective of the neglected daughter.


Tropes:

  • Animal Title: Wasp
  • Auto Erotica: Zoe and David making out and apparently on the way to sex in the car, although it isn't that erotic really since her children are watching from across the street. In any case, they get interrupted.
  • Cat Fight: Zoe has the typical yelling, hair-pulling Cat Fight with an antagonistic neighbor she calls "Bullethead". It isn't very fanservice-y, though, as they are both so desperate and sad.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We open with Zoe, clad in nothing but a slip, stalking out her apartment in a rage, dragging her children along. The children are also dressed raggedly, with baby Kai wearing nothing at all below his waist. Zoe goes to another apartment door and pounds on it. When the woman inside opens the door, Zoe screams "Bitch!" and assaults her. We learn a lot about Zoe very quickly.
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  • Feet-First Introduction: The first shot is of Zoe's bare feet tramping out the door as she's leaving her apartment for an angry confrontation with "Bullethead" the neighbor.
  • Flipping the Bird: As Zoe and the kids are leaving from her fight with Bullethead, she counts to three. At the count of three, she turns around and flips the bird, as do all three of her daughters. (The baby boy will no doubt get future lessons.)
  • Hidden Depths: For most of the movie David comes across as a heel and a lout, what with the way he leers at Zoe and how he makes her pay for drinks at the pub. But when he trots up behind Zoe as Zoe is hugging her kids after saving the baby, a look of compassion comes over his face. The short ends with David suggesting that he drive all of them home and that he and Zoe can talk afterwards. The girls are in the backseat singing a pop song as the credits roll.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A story of a poor, lonely single mother with too many kids.
  • Lens Flare: Seen from the parking lot light shining down on them as Zoe frantically tries to get the wasp out of Kai's mouth.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Presumably the neighbor that Zoe assaults isn't actually named "Bullethead".
  • Parental Neglect: Zoe lives a sad and lonely life, and if she weren't so terribly poor or if she had some support, she probably wouldn't make the choices she makes. But still, leaving your kids loitering in a parking lot for hours while you play pool and engage in Auto Erotica, until it's dark and they are scrounging through garbage for food, that's parental neglect.
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