Joshua Henkin opens his third novel with a dramatic setup. Leo Frankel has been killed while reporting from Iraq for Newsday. He waskidnapped and videotaped in a way reminiscent of how American journalist Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, was killed in Pakistan in 2002. Over the past decade, dozens of newspeople have been killed each year in war zones, making this a timely subject for fiction. But Henkin places Leo's dramatic death offstage, telling it in sketchy snippets.
Dad just died violently. Mom married the man who might be his killer. And now the dead man's ghost is appearing to his son.
That plot comes from Hamlet, of course, but Slovak director Martin Sulik's Gypsy is not otherwise Shakespearean. There are no soliloquies and little dialogue. The prince is 15 and inarticulate, and his Ophelia is entirely sane. She's about to be exiled from her community for the same reasons that nearly everyone else in this tale is victimized: poverty and prejudice.
Quvenzhane Wallis, the pint-sized African-American star of the wonderfully inventive film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was plucked from a Louisiana elementary school, and she's a find on many levels.
Six years old when the film was in production, Quvenzhane has a halo of wiry hair and enormous black eyes that flash fear and ferocity in quick succession. She's a mini-warrior in proudly flexed biceps and white rubber boots, and when, late in the film, well-wishers tog her up in a girlie dress and braids, she deflates, though not for long.