Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Beasts of the Southern Wild
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Mature themes

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Actors: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Jonshel Alexander, Marilyn Barbarin, Gina Montana

Set in The Bathtub - a defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world. Six-year-old Hushpuppy is devoted to her father, Wink, who frequently goes off on sprees, leaving Hushpuppy to fend for herself. The community is a resilient and joyous one, but there is a sense of inevitable destruction. At school, Hushpuppy is taught about natural selection, global warming and the ecological shifts that have placed them in a perilous position. Things come to a head when Wink comes down with a debilitating illness, a massive storm hits, and the ice caps melt, releasing destructive prehistoric beasts who descend on The Bathtub. Little Hushpuppy has to find in herself the courage and heroism to survive the catastrophe and re-instil a sense of community.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 92mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio Formats: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
Wild thing
by Simon Miraudo,

Beasts of the Southern Wild is steeped in culture; an American landmark that will perhaps one day be referred to as the first great post-Katrina film. It's brimming with history and mystery, effortlessly fusing what we know of Louisiana with epic mythology, and then expanding that mysticism into the lives of the people that live near the bayou. Benh Zeitlin's feature directorial debut feels like one that will be cherished by kids for decades to come, and lead Hushpuppy - played by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis - might be remembered as iconic a child protagonist as To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout, Days of Heaven's Linda, and Where the Wild Things Are's Max (the three pictures it shares the most in common with). But these are all hyperbolic suppositions of a movie's legacy before it's even ha...

Beasts of the Southern Wild is steeped in culture; an American landmark that will perhaps one day be referred to as the first great post-Katrina film. It's brimming with history and mystery, effortlessly fusing what we know of Louisiana with epic mythology, and then expanding that mysticism into the lives of the people that live near the bayou. Benh Zeitlin's feature directorial debut feels like one that will be cherished by kids for decades to come, and lead Hushpuppy - played by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis - might be remembered as iconic a child protagonist as To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout, Days of Heaven's Linda, and Where the Wild Things Are's Max (the three pictures it shares the most in common with). But these are all hyperbolic suppositions of a movie's legacy before it's even had time to earn it. All I can accurately report is my feelings upon leaving the cinema, and truthfully, it broke my heart to walk away from the strains of Dan Romer and Zeitlin's anthemic score as the credits rolled. Both quixotic and brutally blunt, this mini-masterpiece bewitched me from the opening moments to the last.

Our madly intelligent and stubborn narrator Hushpuppy lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) in The Bathtub, an Eden-like island off the coast of Southern Louisiana. In the first sequence, we see this happy commune of drinkers and dreamers and storytellers and survivors celebrating their independence from the real world and the harsh realities that come with it. However, harsh reality is encroaching on their paradise, with the sight of an environment-destroying factory spotted just beyond the levee. A 'big storm' is coming, but the residents of The Bathtub are devoted to staying put. Not long after, when the water has risen to roof level and the animals have drowned, they construct a shanty hut from where they'll celebrate their endurance and drink to the dead. Later, they plot to blow up the dam and evacuate the water, not realising that the damage already done cannot be undone.

Before the flood, feisty Hushpuppy imagines the polar caps melting and fabled, man-eating, land-crushing creatures being unfrozen as a result. Her pop goes missing for a few days, leaving her to prove her mettle and find food; she pledges to eat her pets should things turn dire. Wink returns in a hospital gown, belligerent and weak, and it's clear that climate change is not the only inevitable conclusion facing the inhabitants of The Bathtub. No-nonsense teacher Miss Bathsheeba (Gina Montana) and Wink try to prepare Hushpuppy for a future in which she will likely be alone. All the while she keeps imagining the titular beasts stampeding towards her, ready to tear her world apart.

Wallis gives one of the most explosively charismatic lead performances of recent memory, and her chemistry with Henry as her loving yet cruel dad is endlessly watchable. The movie is based on Lucy Alibar's play Juicy and Delicious, and she co-wrote the screenplay with Zeitlin (who had previously made a short based on the tragic hurricane that engulfed New Orleans, entitled Glory at Sea). Beasts of the Southern Wild is more than just a two-hander between two fascinating characters though; it's grand in scope and overwhelming in execution. It offers a fictionalised, fantastical, folkloric, and often frightening account of Katrina without ever uttering its name. It also speaks to human resilience and ignorance; we treasure our homes above all else, but are content to let harm come to the Earth on which we all reside. When Wink is offered help in the form of modern medicine, he desperately rejects the cure. In the final act, Hushpuppy goes looking for her magical mother, who abandoned them back in the day because she couldn't bear to take care of anyone else. The Bathtubbers tell Hushpuppy she can only rely on herself, not realising that the community as a whole is a living, breathing entity too, and being a part of it is maybe the only worthwhile thing in this life. Beasts of the Southern Wild is about a young girl learning about the unavoidable death of man and the death of our planet, yet it's stirring, shiver-inducing, heart-bursting, and dare we say it, inspirational.

5/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (33)

Didn't enjoy this as we found the narrative was hard to follow and dull plus the accents made hearing a challenge; I think it needed subtitles. We tried to view it twice and gave up.
Posted Saturday, 5 April 2014 See my other reviews
Margaret
says
Well if I could understand what they were saying half the time I maybe able to say if I liked it or not.I was hoping for more than it was.
Posted Wednesday, 5 February 2014 See my other reviews
Toni
says
No thanks, very dull and hard to follow. Bit depressing.
Posted Wednesday, 16 October 2013 See my other reviews
Dan
says
Don't waste your time with this one.
Posted Saturday, 20 July 2013 See my other reviews
CL-D
says
"Tribes and survival once earth is devastated by human greed" movies are almost becoming a genre and quite honestly I've just about had it with them. Don't get me wrong this is a good movie but, as expected , very dire and often depressing. Credit where it's due, it does give a different perspective on it and the photography is really interesting. My main gripe is that I could barely understand what the actors were saying, which I notice a few others have commented on. Even using rewind doesn't do it sometimes. You have to be in the right mood for this.
Posted Friday, 19 July 2013 See my other reviews
robbiebobby
says
I found it really hard to follow I really didn't understand it
Posted Sunday, 16 June 2013 See my other reviews
Wombat
says
I wasn't in the mood the first time I tried watching it. Also couldn't understand what the actors were saying - couldn't get subtitles to work either. Then I tried it again and was captivated. Yes, it was a little slow at times. However, it was much better than Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which someone else has compared it to below - an endless loop of Brad Pitt being tightwound aggressive with nothing ever happening.
Posted Sunday, 9 June 2013 See my other reviews
Alex
says
Very slow moving!!
Posted Wednesday, 29 May 2013 See my other reviews
Disc no good couldn't watch it
Posted Wednesday, 22 May 2013 See my other reviews
Nick
says
Not for everyone, slow and hard to follow in places, very different however I think you need to be in the right mood to enjoy this, if your like Terrance Mallick films its not disimilar in tone/pacing etc.
Posted Thursday, 16 May 2013 See my other reviews
zzzzz
Posted Tuesday, 14 May 2013 See my other reviews
It made me laugh that I tried so hard to understand this movie. I kept looking for clues but came up with none. I found it confusing. I guess I could be dumb, cause surely there was a point to making this movie!
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
MLV
says
So much to learn from this movie. Beautifully done. Yes it is different, so if you don't like to think or be stirred, then this isn't your kind of movie.
Posted Thursday, 18 April 2013 See my other reviews
David C
says
It's a beautiful and worrying movie, a child's eye view of catastrophe and death, life and giant monsters.
Posted Tuesday, 16 April 2013 See my other reviews
Harlowe
says
Better than I was expecting. It's a difficult one to review. Makes one reflect once again on the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the state of Louisiana, and demonstrates loudly that, whether you had much or little to lose, you were still devastated by the aftermath of this natural disaster. The people are almost like a tribe unto themselves. Themes of love and survival and not being beaten down by the 'establishment' or the system. Wanting to remain in a world that would seem quite repugnant to most of us, but realising that someone's home, humble or even horrible though it may seem to others - is their 'castle'. The lead actress was incredibly good.
Posted Sunday, 14 April 2013 See my other reviews
Tanya
says
Disappointing. Read some good reviews. However, unable to understand most of the dialogue; accent, rapid speech and sound at times distorted (to me). Gave up trying to watch it so never did find out what happened after the typhoon hit.
Posted Wednesday, 10 April 2013 See my other reviews
Andrew
says
I can see why this won't be for everyone, but we found it to be an intelligent, original and almost surreal movie experience. The young star is exactly that, with the genuine looks of fear and curiousity she expresses. It is full of imagination and captured ours.
Posted Thursday, 4 April 2013 See my other reviews
Robbie
says
Absolutely awful. If you WANT to spend an evening feeling mildly revolted and utterly depressed, knock yourself out. Otherwise, leave this one alone.
Posted Saturday, 30 March 2013 See my other reviews
Autumn Sadie
says
I am surprised at the poor reviews of this film, as it was an absolute gem. Perhaps people cannot see the artistic expression and understand of the subtly of film? Yes, the treatment of HushPuppy was horrid, but it's gritty and real.... and yet it the neglect you can see real love and kindness. The people of the Bathtub were genuine and their portrayals of the land dwellers in the city seemed accurate (from their POV and background). A very interesting slice of life film. I loved HushPuppy's dialogue about love, life and forgiveness. So much learning just from her words! The beasts and the rains provided a beautiful metaphorical touch to a rather intense, authentic look at poverty, socio-economic struggle and the divide that pulls apart the US. Really worth a watch. 4 stars.
Posted Saturday, 23 March 2013 See my other reviews
Kezza
says
Just proved to me that Academy Award nomiated movies are "not my cup of tea". This was the worst movie I've seen in a long time. The little girl did a good job but the symbolism and storyline left me cold. I like a movie that tells a good story this was slow and depressing!!!
Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 See my other reviews
Cammo
says
Absolutely ridiculous. Boring, drawn out, lazy scriptwriting, not cohesive, just boring. I love arthouse or left of centre folms, but this was just too try-hard and pointless. Give it a miss. I cant believe it won at Cannes!
Posted Sunday, 17 March 2013 See my other reviews
CC
says
The child with the unpronounceable name gives an amazing performance, but the film itself not so amazing. A bunch of dropouts and derelicts more interested in booze than anything else, some of whom drag their kids with them into their communal life of abject squalor and then neglect them, abuse them, and terrify and traumatise them with booze-fuelled violence and threats of their imminent annihilation from global warming or other eco-Armageddons. The story line was scatty with more style than substance. The treatment of thHush Puppy by her father was deplorable.
Posted Monday, 11 March 2013 See my other reviews
Moi
says
A movie like no other. I have never seen a movie quite like Beasts of the Southern Wild before. Where did they come up with the idea. Also, it looks like it would have been very expensive to make this movie.
Posted Thursday, 14 February 2013 See my other reviews
Quvenzhane Wallis was just amazing! Worth watching just for her performance.
Posted Wednesday, 13 February 2013 See my other reviews
Otto
says
Confronting and, at times, just plain weird, with some charm and humour mixed in. The underlying story is very topical. Worth watching if you are prepared to view it with an open mind.
Posted Friday, 8 February 2013 See my other reviews
I really wanted to like this movie but felt it was trying too hard to be art house. The little girl playing "Hushpuupy" was a wonder to watch.
Posted Friday, 8 February 2013 See my other reviews
Johnson
says
One of those quirky "eclectic" films... not much happens, but enough to keep things ticking along. Much of the time the plot is left to your own guesswork... so you get out of it what effort you put in. Unfortunately I just wasn't in the mood for guesswork.
Posted Tuesday, 5 February 2013 See my other reviews
moviebuff
says
A very difficult film to immerse yourself in ,due to the style of the filming (hand held camera)and subject matter (eccentric outsiders who live near the bayou) before and after Hurricane Katrina. However do yourself a favour and watch this exceptional film,simple for the unbelievable performance of Quvenzhane Wallis ,could this be one of the greatest performances by a six year old,ever recorded on film ?
Posted Tuesday, 29 January 2013 See my other reviews
Cairo49
says
The little girl was quite simply amazing. But to me it seemed to be about nothing and went nowhere. Maybe I missed something.
Posted Monday, 28 January 2013 See my other reviews
Ron
says
Boring, couldn't sit through it
Posted Thursday, 24 January 2013 See my other reviews
joffa
says
wasn't sure what to expect with this title......... genre 'unknown', which left me with 'open mind' about content. I found this both 'different' & 'interesting' with a whole new way of lifethrust into my loungeroom. Definitely worth watching (keeping open mind)
Posted Monday, 21 January 2013 See my other reviews
gerd
says
Rather too random, surreal and basically silly to have much of a discernible story amid violence, squalor and booze. The message seems to be that lots of drinking brings out prehistoric beasts. Perhaps it does.
Posted Sunday, 20 January 2013 See my other reviews
Good performance by the kid. Apart from that the film was boring.
Posted Saturday, 19 January 2013 See my other reviews
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