Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild
What We ThoughtGenre: Drama, Fantasy
What We Liked :Fantastic performance from Quvenzhané Wallis, Unique story in a marketplace full of stale ideas
What We Disliked:Responsibility of Hushpuppy too large, Fantasy element feels thrown in
In a time when studios keep on creating the same material, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a bright light.
First-time director Benh Zeitlin has created a fairy-tale land in Beasts of the Southern Wild. In a mixture of rough coming-of-age story mixed with a lot of the same feelings Pan’s Labyrinth portrayed, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fierce emotional ride. Beasts of the Southern Wild has already had reaps of praise from the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, could it possibly live up to expectations?
The bulk of the story takes place in a fictional location known only as The Bathtub. Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) has only her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), left to guide her through the world, but she fully understands the gravitas of her situation. She listens to the heartbeat of every creature and she knows what it means to be truly alive. In one of the most memorable opening sequences in a long while, the location and people of Beasts of the Southern Wild are given purpose. Hushpuppy and the other families belong in The Bathtub, this is their home.
Hushpuppy doesn’t understand why her mother isn’t alive anymore. She struggles with the realities of her world. While Wink loves her he is an alcoholic and is not the same man he once was. Wink has a harsh demeanor about him, treating Hushpuppy with equal parts abuse and guidance. There’s always a question about how much he loves Hushpuppy, perhaps he even blames her for the death of his wife.
On one fateful day, Hushpuppy sets fire to her camper and in the process hurts Wink. That was the day that the water came. While the storm is never referred to as Hurricane Katrina, based on the destruction and culture of The Bathtub, its an easy assumption to make. The devastation is massive of course, but for the surviving residents of The Bathtub they don’t fear survival, they fear being taken from their homes. While the residents struggle with the problems of survival and keeping their homes, a pack of extinct, bison-like creatures named aurochs, come back to life to wreck the Bathtub. One would figure that the movie was names after these creatures. I believe it was named after the willpower and spirit of the people of The Bathtub.
At the heart of what makes Beasts of the Southern Wild such a great film is the performances from the two leads Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. Quvenzhané Wallis was only five years old when she auditioned for Beasts of the Southern Wild, but she has talent beyond her years. She has the responsibility of carrying the emotional weight of the film on her shoulders and she succeeds. Dwight Henry was also an unknown. He auditioned for the part, but his main occupation was that of a baker. He has to struggle with his own mortality, while also raising his daughter during the storm of a century.
Beasts of the Southern Wild isn’t as much about mythical creatures as it is about a father/daughter relationship during the harshest of conditions. While their are some problems with the finale with the amount of responsibility Hushpuppy takes on, its negligible compared to the rest of the picture. In a time when studios keep on creating the same material, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a bright light.