Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild / Director: Benh Zeitlin / Screenplay: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin / Starring: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly / Release Date: October 19th
Hushpuppy is a little girl living in the mythical Louisiana bayou community of Bathtub with her father Wink who is terribly sick. A storm is coming to her beloved Bathtub which is sure to wipe out everything, but rather than leave her surroundings she is inspired to confront her crumbling cosmos. “Everybody loses the thing that made them. The brave men stay and watch it happen. They don't run.” When a group of prehistoric creatures called aurochs appear in the midst of all the destruction Hushpuppy fiercely looks death straight in the eye in order to survive. The world viewed through this young girl’s eyes is magical, magnificent and moving.
Debut feature director Benh Zeitlan has co-written a stirring, enriching script along with Lucy Alibar and the simplicity of the language allows Hushpuppy’s erudite voice to strike an emotional, honest chord. The ideas in Zeitlan’s movie are approached in such a way that will allow viewers of all ages to be engaged and embrace the heart of the film. The perspective of a little girl and the principles instilled in her by her father and community are crafted in a surprisingly inventive way. The soundtrack exudes marvel and the use of the natural environment to create a savage and spellbinding setting will draw you into Hushpuppy’s curious, wondrous world. Zeitlan’s ability to blend the troubling aspects of real life and the sparkle of imagination to create such an original world is what makes this film so special.
The lead actress Quvenzhane Wallis (who was six at the time of filming) is a force to be reckoned with. Her turn as Hushpuppy is dazzling, delivering wide-eyed wisdom in a commanding yet contemplative way. She may be the youngest member of the main cast of actors (who are all from Louisiana) and the smallest piece in the puzzle of the universe but Wallis shines extremely brightly in the role. Whether she is cooking dinner with a blowtorch or cracking crabs with the other beasts her presence is enchanting.
The aurochs are seen running wild in their natural habitat, as animals should be, acting as a metaphor for the untamed tribe of Bathtub who happily run around screaming and dread being taken to a shelter on the mainland. Filmed in Louisiana with the aftermath of Katrina as the backdrop the resemblance to the situation is clear but Zeitlan is painting a universal tale of loss here.
Zeitlan has created a rare thing of beauty. It is coming of age, fantasy and ecological fairy tale exploring the universe and the fragility of existence. Bathtub overflows with an abundance of absorbing ideas and images and it is a world well worth exploring.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10