“Everybody loses the thing that made them. The brave men stay and watch it happen. They don’t run.” – Hushpuppy
Beasts of the Southern Wild takes place before and after a hurricane in a fictional community nicknamed “The Bathtub”. Shot on location in New Orleans, it stars Quvenzhané Wallis, 5-years-old when she was cast, and Dwight Henry, a baker who only took the part because he has “an inside understanding for what this movie is about. I brought a passion to the part that an outside actor who had never seen a storm or been in a flood or faced losing everything could have.” They play Hushpuppy, one of the most dynamic child characters I’ve ever seen, and her father, Wink, who can fish with his bare hands just as easily as he can lose his temper. Wink and the rest of the adults, rear the children hard. They don’t refrain from swearing when they’re teaching them necessary survival skills. As a result, Hushpuppy and Wink have a very complicated relationship in a very difficult situation, as they expect so much of one another, but are bound by their love through and through.
The only criticisms of the film I’ve seen are of first-time feature film director Benh Zeitlin, and they are understandable. I thought that he did a great job, and there are some otherworldly scenes created from the 16mm shots. But it does feel a bit controlled at times. It’s kind of the opposite way that The Perks of Being a Wallflower went for me. I came out of that liking it more than I thought I did, but felt that Beasts of the Southern Wild could’ve been even better than it was if the characters were allowed to breathe more.
That said, this film is excellent. It’s powerful and moving in its story, and in the world that it creates. I don’t see many of the supposed fantasy elements (showing aurochs 3 or 4 times in a film? I personally don’t think that qualifies) in this drama, but either way, it brings you into a unique world. The acting is great, and Wallis in particular is one to watch. Her performance has to be seen; words don’t do it justice. And when combining the actors with their situations, almost every scene in the film is memorable. As a whole, Beasts of the Southern Wild won’t soon be forgotten.