I saw this film at its first ever screening this past January at Sundance. I had no what it was about; it was the only film I did not do any research before hand on. I was tired by the time I got to this screening after a late screening the night before and one directly before it I almost skipped this feature. I’m glad I did not, because for the most part I was in for a treat. But first…
Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in the Bathtub, a southern Delta community at the edge of the world. Wink’s tough love prepares her for the unraveling of the universe; for a time when he’s no longer there to protect her. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack, temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. With the waters rising, the aurochs coming, and Wink’s health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother.
There are plenty of shortcomings in this film but lets talk about the acting here first because it was some of the best of the year. Quvenzhane Wallis delivers a quite yet powerful performance in the lead as, HushPuppy, tough little girl who must become even stronger and yet never loses the child within. Dwight Henry was the real stand out as her father Wink. He gives a raw, deeply affecting and touching performance that cuts deep.
The rest is just good enough.
The film’s shot design by director Benh Zeitlin is cinematic, but the cinematography does little to capture Zeitlin’s vision. The camera is very often out-of-focus, and frustratingly shaky, and I know it’s hand-held, but it’s often too shaky to fully comprehend the visuals. As well, the fantastical elements of the story never seem to work in conjunction with the emotional story being told between Wink and Hushpuppy, with Wink teaching Hushpuppy how to be strong and learn to live on her own. In some ways, if the film were just about a father and daughter trying to survive in a small Louisiana bayou with no fantasy, I’d buy it.
We get some fantastic special features here too but unfortunately no commentary track. There are some deleted scenes that were rightfully cut. We get a sneak peak into production with a making of feature, audition footage, and features about the music and the “beasts.” Finally we have the director’s previous short film called Glory At Sea.
Beasts is a strong first feature by a very young director. He obviously watched a ton of Malick and David Gordon Green flicks to prepare for this. There were some elements of the film that did not work for me a couple being the overly long ending and the “beasts.” But the performance in the film really carried the viewer through the feature well enough. This film is not for children but families with teenagers will enjoy this drama for a family movie night.
The amazing Beasts of the Southern Wild Flip Book
Beasts of the Southern Wild [Blu-ray] is available for purchase for home viewing.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Overall: 3.5 borderline abusive father/daughter relationships out of 5
Review by Bro’ B – Ben
We received product to facilitate this review. All opinions are our own.