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‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Review

beasts of the southern wild

Zeitlin transforms Mississippi’s Bathtub into a cinematic revelation

I watched this movie a while ago, and I’m just getting around to doing a review about it. Probably because when I really love a movie, it takes me weeks to process it. I’m only slightly exaggerating here.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was an absolutely phenomenal movie – all the way from the cinematography to the acting to the script itself. I couldn’t praise this movie enough and I would definitely put it down as one of my favorite movies of 2012.

The movie, directed by 30-year-old Benh Zeitlin (who was in his late 20’s during the actual filming), stars young Quvenzhané Wallis as five-year-old Hushpuppy and newcomer Dwight Henry as Wink. The father-daughter duo live in Mississippi’s Bathtub, a southern Louisiana bayou community located on the other side of the levees. With an approaching storm coming, it makes the local community especially vulnerable to floods, death and displacement, and damage to infrastructure. But Wink and some of his friends are determined to stay and wait out the hurricane.

What struck me the most as I was watching was how beautifully it was filmed and how Wallis does such a good job with the narration. There’s a simultaneous childlike innocence and sense of mature about Wallis in this movie.

Dialog is sparse but, in spite of that, the movie pulls at your heartstrings thanks to Wallis and Henry who have terrific chemistry in every father-daughter scene they share.

The Bathtub is as much of a character as the people living there, and Wallis is able to convey so much emotion with just her facial expressions. It’s amazing to think she was only six when this movie was filmed. Not many child actors would have been able to bring to life the character of Hushpuppy the way Wallis did.

Last year, Beasts got a lot of criticism for romanticizing poverty, but personally I would disagree with that assessment. I think what the filmmakers were attempting to do was show the richness and vibrancy of the Bathtub itself (landscape, animals, etc.), as well as show that these people have a unique culture that is deeply embedded in the bayou.

Earlier this year, Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Lead Actress. Unfortunately it didn’t win even one award, even though I was convinced (and still am) that it deserved to win – at the very least – Best Picture. It would have been nice to see Dwight Henry get more recognition for his role in the movie, as well.

Both Wallis and Henry can next be seen in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Wallis will star in the musical remake of Annie, due for release some time in 2014.

Memorable Quotes

Hushpuppy: The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted.

Hushpuppy: I see that I’m a little piece in a big, big universe. And that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future – they’re gonna find it all. They gonna know – once there was a Hushpuppy, and she live with her daddy in the Bathtub.

five stars

Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Runtime: 93 minutes
Genre: Drama, Fantasy