Beasts of the Southern Wild
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes, Pamela Harper
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Beasts Of The Southern Wild is not your average movie. Here you won’t find any rom com clichés, over-the-top special effects or chick flick moments. Instead you'll find a tale of love, loss and acceptance of what you cannot change in life.
Seen through the eyes of young Hushpuppy (Wallis), the film explores what it means when the pieces of the universe come together to make a whole, and what happens when they fall apart.
Raised by her father, known as "Wink" (Henry), after her mother left, Hushpuppy has learned to become part of nature and in turn nature has become part of her.
Living in a small community known as "The Bathub", away from the Levee and those on the land, Hushpuppy is schooled by her father in how to look after herself in the wilderness of South Louisiana. One day he points out that, whether she likes it or not, there is going to come a time where she will have to take care of herself.
Bitter, lost, and a shell of the man he used to be after Hushpuppy’s mother left, Wink’s relationship with his daughter is often strained and at times aggressive and negligent.
Medicating himself with alcohol obtained from the local liquor store and in the company of others that have strayed from the path such as Jean (Easterly) and "Walrus" (Landes), Wink desperately tries to hide his illness and inevitable death.
However, like Hushpuppy, Wink has a connection with nature. Sensing his pain, Mother Nature strikes back, raising the river that surrounds their homes to dangerous levels, releasing prehistoric animals known as Aurochs, and setting off a chain reaction of events that will forever change Hushpuppy’s life.
Forced from their homes by intervention from the government and placed in disaster camps, Hushpuppy, Wink and their community struggle with the sudden changes to their surroundings, and adapt to their new environment. Confronted with the reality that her father is sick and dying, Hushpuppy realises that she must try and make the journey home to find the mother that she lost long ago.
The journey pushes her to face the truth: sometimes we have to face our demons in order to open our eyes to things that we would rather pretend weren’t happening.
Returning with acceptance in her heart, Hushpuppy makes peace with both the Aurochs and the knowledge that she has little time left with her father.
The scenes between Wink and Hushpuppy are dramatic and moving, dissolving the tension between the two, and revealing to the audience the message the film conveys: we all love and experience loss, and we are all just one little piece in the puzzle of the universe.
In Hushpuppy's narration throughout the film she notes that "everything in life has its way of communicating" and that "it all fits together somehow". It's insightful and meaningful, which adds solidity to the plot and ties it all together nicely.
The cast, while being all relatively unknown, are confident and convincing, with Wallis, who is only eight years old, giving a stand out performance. First-time director Benh Zetilin presents a compelling film that has already made its mark on international critics, having won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January 2012, and also the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes film festival.
While it may not be your typical Hollywood-produced, star-encrusted film, Beasts of the Southern Wild is definitely worth a look.
3 and a half out of 5.
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