Review: The Beasts of the Southern Wild (Zeitlin, 2012)

November 26, 2012 5:13 pm

Poetry. Simply put Beasts of the Southern Wild is the definition of filmic poetry. Shot like a Dardenne social-drama (see: The Child or The Kid with a Bike) yet infused with the magical realism and vivid visual intensity of the fantasy genre, Beasts’ story is a simple but perfectly constructed tale of community and coming of age. Seen through the eyes of its main protagonist; the small but resilient six-year old ‘Hushpuppy’, who lives with her father in the ‘bathtub’, the nickname of a small, disconnected community residing in a Louisiana bayou.

Life is a simple day-to-day ritual of taking care of livestock, conversing with neighbours and experiencing life in all its simplicity and beauty. These people are poor and have very little, but the community in which they are a part of is more important to them than the fast-paced contemporary world of ‘ugly’ industrial power plants and clinical monotony.

Hushpuppy’s quiet but peaceful life is turned upside, however, when it becomes evident that her father, Wink, is ill and getting progressively worse, something, due to her age, she can’t entirely comprehend. Though her active imagination keeps her spirits high, a storm is approaching, one which perhaps no one will survive. Whilst Hushpuppy, her father and her friends are uprooted from the only life they’ve ever known, on the other side of the world, something ancient awakens…

Whilst Beasts’  narrative is reasonably simple, it holds itself together with its array of visual splendor and some of the most impressive acting performances of recent memory. No one here is A-list, but you will be hard-pressed  to find a cast member without seemingly innate acting talent. Moreover, its aforementioned juxtaposing blend of realist-drama and dream-like images makes it a highly unique film. Despite its expressive, fantastical flourishes (or perhaps because of them) it comes across as one of the most authentic, fully-realised worlds of contemporary film, yet done with a simplicity and style which makes it both accessible, but, more significantly, also powerful.


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