Beasts of the Southern Wild

Thoughts on Film...

Chris Fullerton is a Music & Film writer.
He lives in Austin, Texas.

First-time director Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild blends a touch of the fantastical with a heaping helping of reality to create the perfect human drama.
The story centers on a young girl, Hushpuppy, (Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father, Wink, (Dwight Henry), in The Bathtub, a settlement on the wrong side of the levee.

The people of The Bathtub are happy. They celebrate life, even though they live in squalor. In fact, they pity the poor souls who don’t share their lifestyle. Wink is in ever-worsening health, which he tries to hide from his daughter, but she knows something is wrong. Hushpuppy’s mother is absent, but the girl still talks to her, usually in the form of an old basketball jersey.

Meanwhile, the climate is changing and uncovering the most ferocious beasts, aurochs, from their icy graves. Aurochs were said to have ruled the world before the last ice age, and now they are marching ferociously toward The Bathtub.

Soon, a great storm rolls in, and the water rises, forcing most of the community to flee their little impoverished paradise, but Hushpuppy, Wink and a few others hang on. And at first, it’s a fine time. They drink and dance and eat seafood, but eventually, when the water doesn’t subside, the fish and fowl begin to die, leaving them to scrounge for food.

Wink and a few other men devise a plan to alleviate their flooding problem, but this eventually gets the attention of authorities who declare The Bathtub a mandatory evacuation area. It’s populous is rounded off and taken to shelters “for their own good.”

Once in these shelters, the severity of Wink’s condition is known and he does his best to shield his daughter, and get her to someone who can take care of her when he’s gone, but she’s determined to stick with him. She wants to get back to The Bathtub and find her mother, though the authorities and the aurochs threaten to stand in her way.

Zeitlin manages to make a filthy, unlivable place seem beautiful. Along with co-writer Lucy Alibar, they’ve told a story of family, community and the power of innocence and determination. Wallis is a powerful presence on-screen and avoids the typical pitfalls of performers her age, meaning to say, I believe her to be real, unlike the typical child characters that speak like grown-ups. Henry and the supporting cast also give moving and memorable performances. The film is both beautiful and raw. You will find yourself rooting for Hushpuppy. You will be emotionally invested before it’s over.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - It’s still only summer, so I’m not going to declare that Beasts of the Southern Wild is the best picture of 2012, but I will say it should definitely be in the argument at the end of the year.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
official / imdb / rotten tomatoes


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