I prefer not to watch movie trailers in some situations. I avoid them in some instances, because I love watching movies when I know next to nothing about them going in. It gives me the chance to be caught off guard by what might happen and I’m able to learn about the film and its characters as everything moves along. This is was the case for the movie called Beasts of the Southern Wild. I knew almost nothing about it and I approached it with a completely open mind.
In Beasts of the Southern Wild, there’s this small and forgotten community that’s cut off from the rest of the world. In this community, there’s a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) who must sort through her very difficult life with only her youthful optimism and wild imagination as two of her few allies during some very trying times. She faces several daunting tasks just to survive and she also has Wink (Dwight Henry), her alcoholic father to deal with.
Beasts of the Southern Wild opens up showing the audience the everyday lifestyles of the people who inhabit this small isolated area of the U.S. For the people who live here, there’s no electricity, no cars and based on their physical appearances, no bathtubs either. That’s actually kind of ironic, because they call the area that they live in “The Bathtub.” But instead of worrying about getting clean, this friendly, yet defiant bunch decides that it’s best for their home to be a place where they can hang out and have fun.
We also learn about Hushpuppy and her father Wink during this time and over the course of the film. The two of them have a very odd and emotional relationship. Hushpuppy is a very young child who’s still trying to learn and understand the inner workings of life. Her father on the other hand, is an eccentric type and is way too far on the irresponsible side. He of course knows of those inner workings, but his non stop use of alcohol gets in the way of his judgement and is probably the cause for some (or most) of his erratic behavior. As the audience, we witness a tough and frustrating relationship that still has a feeling of love between a parent and child hidden somewhere under all of that negativity.
I went into this movie thinking that I was about to see some things that I’ve never personally experienced and things that I couldn’t associate with. That did happen, but not as much as I had originally anticipated. What I saw in this movie are things that not only I could relate to, but things that people in general could relate to. In Beasts of the Southern Wild, the primary story isn’t about the struggles of these people who are surrounded by water and live far away from the rest of society. The story is about life, how each of us fit into it as individuals and how we deal with whatever it throws in our way.
It’s far deeper than I thought it would be and it’s all shown through the innocent eyes of little girl who doesn’t understand much of it, but uses her father’s guidance and her own childish way of interpreting all of what she’s learning. Many of the things in this film can and will happen to literally almost all of us regardless of our age or background. If you put this same story in just about any home around the world, you could see a lot of these things and experience some of the same lessons that are being learned here. Putting it in this environment however, makes for a more naturalistic set of circumstances that will still allow for a child’s unadulterated fantasies and dreams to fit right into it.
Just based on the description (mine or anyone else’s) of this movie, you should probably be able to figure out that this movie might be a bit of a tear-jerker for many people who are going to give this a look. There are several emotionally heavy scenes that might be hard to watch, but they will also be just as hard to turn away from. These scenes are plastered throughout the movie, but many of them are shown somewhat closer to the end and in my opinion, they are absolutely amazing. Of course, I can’t tell you about them, but I will say that I love the level of heart and artistry that’s included in these detailed portions of the film.
A large amount of the artistry that’s in this excellent film comes from a great story and a wonderful cast. Led by the young Quvenzhane Wallis, these inexperienced actors manage to put on some stellar and memorable performances. They give the viewer the ability to understand the negative environment that they’re in, while they’re doing their best to remain positive, loyal, defiant and upbeat no matter what challenges they face. Because of this, there’s an authentic touch of humanity that manifests itself onto the big screen and allows you to get lost in it all.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is also the debut film for director Benh Zeitlin, who also co-wrote it with writer Lucy Alibar. I would say that he’s done a great service to himself and his career by knocking the ball out of the park on his very first try. If he keeps this up he’ll only get better and we could be hearing from him for a long long time. His first film release is a true work of art and it’s genuinely something that’s beautiful to watch. Very rarely do I consider any movie a masterpiece, but this one might be deserving of that label.
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Film Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: June 27, 2012 (Limited)
Distributor: Fox Searchlight