Keith Hudson’s review on Beasts of the southern wild, New on Blu Ray/DVD
This pretty little film flew under the radar a bit in this country and it certainly wasn’t shown for long at the local multiplex (if at all, I can’t remember). Maybe the basis for the film didn’t fit too with British movie goers, maybe it was a bit too exotic for a mainstream audience. It certainly doesn’t fit into the usual pop corn movie type. However don’t think that this film is too difficult – this is a unique film and it is worth a view.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a meditation on the life of a little girl called Hushpuppy (played by Quvenzhane Wallis) and her wonder in a world set in the American South. Hushpuppy’s life is shown through a world of play and the film spends a lot of time portraying this world and as it does so adds to the film’s character.
A large part of Hushpuppy’s world is spent with her father, Wink, (played by Dwight Henry) and how their relationship plays out, the ups and the downs, is the main core of the film. The direction of the film gives that relationship time to breathe without having to resort to normal film contrivances needed by plot driven movies.
Also important to the film is a sense of place, and that is captured by the town called The Bathtub, which is a colourful setting filled with characters. The Bathtub is a frontier place where people live in shanty towns and are separated from the more civilised world by a large levee. This adds to the mystery of the place as a never world distinct from the wider world in general and it has an almost supernatural feel of place, yet at the same time feels like a real location.
Beasts of the Southern Wild has a kind of rambling tone, sometimes poetic and shot in a naturalist kind of way, which uses a shaky hand-held kind of shot, with a moving camera. This aims to show the world of Hushpuppy as a childish one, rather than one with fixed certainty, a Hollywood certainty. It does succeed in this and the film does feel realistic with the focus being on incidental things, details that a child would look at. The film moves at a gentle relaxed place reflecting the world around it, for example animals such as the pigs and chickens are given a lot of screen time as much as many people as they catch the child’s imagination. Permeating the film is a narrative from Hushpuppy that reflects her innocent world and though it offers nothing to the plot, adds to the ambience of her dream like world.
Plot wise the film is fairly simplistic the events just happen in the background. The flooding of the Bathtub I think is meant to be a reflection on New Orleans and hurricane Katrina, with the government interfering in the self sufficiency of the natives and their ability to clean up themselves.
The acting is very good especially Quvenzhane Wallis who fits into the role extremely well. The ensemble cast is good and all give natural performances, they don’t just act they just are. The film’s structure allows the actors to fill out their roles.
The film is an original take in the movie world and for it’s distinctiveness it was nominated for four Oscars, for Best Film, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress (playing Hushpuppy – Quvenzhane Wallis)
Though this is a good film, it does lacks universal appeal, in that it won’t be for everyone like a true classic would. the fairly weak plot and a lack of action are a sticking point. For fans of action or moving plots this is a film to probably miss. However those who want to see a unique vision of the world put to film, who can handle the gentle plodding in places then this film is worth seeing.