Review – Beasts of the Southern Wild


Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ben Zeitlin

2012, USA

A six year old girl named Hushpuppy living in the ‘Bathtub’, a bayou community situated beyond the levee of a major city with her father sees big changes in her life and must come to terms with the changing realities of her family and environment.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is essentially a fantasy in the same vein as a Studio Ghibli film. It’s a modern day parable considering the facets of love, family, community and the environment. We are introduced to the community over a simple introduction by our narrator and hero, Hushpuppy. She loves her life with her father, it’s fun, free of strife and full of love and adventure. The first five minutes is like an explosion of positivity, shot beautifully on 16mm film, but it’s not long before the community develop problems that could destroy them for good.

Beasts lives or dies on Hushpuppy. If the part is poorly cast the whole thing slowly sinks much like the floating community seem to be, though fortunately the director found the perfect child for the role. Quvenzhané Wallis, who was 6 years old at the time of filming, has created a character that will live on, it can and will be seen as an archetype for juvenile strength and determination.

The movie constantly pulled me in all directions. At some points I was so taken by the community depicted that the socialist in me was ready to pack my bags and leave the urban sprawl I call home for pastures green (and wet), at other times I was genuinely worried for this young girl, traveling with a strange fisherman to bars in the ocean full of prostitutes and living with a man who is clearly mentally unstable and dangerous. Because the circumstances seem so real it’s hard to come to terms with the situation at times but I also think it’s important to view Beasts in the realms of magical reality. Hushpuppy is a girl who sees the world very differently from the rest of us and her journey stands as not only her real life narrative but also as an extension of her beautiful imagination.

The film doesn’t give it to you cheaply. This is a tough life in dire circumstances and these people are desperate. They will do what it takes to survive and the father doesn’t have time to take Hushpuppy to the park or teach her to ride a bike. He has chosen his life and will die to preserve it, but above all he loves her. He loves her to death.

The Studio Ghibli reference is not a cheap one. I’m sure that if Mr. Miyazaki was to make a live action film it wouldn’t be far away from B.O.T.S.W. Much of Ghibli’s characters and ideologies can be clearly seen throughout: The gigantic aurochs being released (reminiscent of the boars in Princess Mononoke), the environmental concerns (Ponyo and Pom Poko) a strong, young girl on a magical journey (to many to count). If you enjoyed Beasts and aren’t familiar with Ghibli, you’re in for a treat.

Everyone should see Beasts of the Southern Wild. Not only because it’s tells an important story, not just for the wonderful performance of a girl not too long out of the pram, but because it’s simply beautiful.


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