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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Movie Review


In Beasts of the Southern Wild, you are presented the life of 6 year old Hushpuppy, her strange and dysfunctional but in some ways sweet relationship with her dad with what I presume is Sickle Cell Disease; and how the eyes of a child perceive the devastation wrought about by Hurricane Katrina in a distant and seemingly cut off and distant area called the Bathtub.

First of all, I would like to commend the movie on being highly original and unique. I cannot find any point of reference from which I can compare this movie to. Going in I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that a lot of people had very good things to say about the film and I was not disappointed.

The focus of the movie is on Hushpuppy, played by new and rising child star Quvenzhane Wallis who gave a very convincing and heartfelt performance consistently allthroughout the movie. It blows my mind how a child acting her first movie can show so much maturity when it comes to playing out her sequences. I can confidently say that this movie features the best child actor in any movie ever. Hushpuppy's interaction with her father (played by Dwight Henry) was phenomenal. I wanted to believe they were actually father and child despite their very unconventional relationship.



But what's very striking in this movie is that we genuinely see the world through Hushpuppy's eyes. We see the world, as beautifully as it is, as she interprets it. Her father would share stories about her mother who swam away and how she didn't need to turn on the fire or boil water as they did just that merely in her presence. Hushpuppy would be believe it literally and we are treated with one of the most unique visual spectacles in a long time.

The whole movie actually is a spectacle. The visuals were astounding. You can feel the atmosphere of the almost dystopian natural paradise of The Bathtub filled to the brim with lush trees and grass against a clear sky backdrop. When the storm finally comes you can feel its dark and looming presence and how it affects the characters you see on screen. The sets were detailed and some of the most believable I've seen in cinema. As the storm passes, you are treated with the horrible effects of the flood. If I didn't know better, I would treat this movie as an allegory to the Great Flood. But to think that way doesn't do disservice to the movie either.

After a few events in the movie, we see a sudden change of character. With her father's progressively fading health, she decides to "swim" just as her mother did in hopes to find her. We see her meet a woman which could very well be her mother, except we never get to know. Which is one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie.

At the end she faces her own Beasts (in the form of the mythological Aurochs who feed on the weak hearts of men). As they bow down before her, we know Hushpuppy is a changed girl who can face anything going forward.

Despite the amazing aesthetics of the movie, the style used was a little shaky for my tastes. The shots also seemed a little tight for some reason up to the point that it feels a little claustrophobic but not to the point that it feels jarring. You just feel it, the proceed to enjoy the movie. The moment the camera goes wide is when you see the sheer beauty of this natural environment from which they shot in. The relationships, not only of Wallis and Henry were believable but also the relationships of their multi cultural cast. Acting was superb on all fronts by all characters.

Another thing to note is the sound design. Just hearing and experiencing the sound of the storm makes you feel like you are in the shabby house they live in. The sounds of the beasts are really well made and heavy and gives them the powerful kind of feel.


Overall, the story felt extremely well paced except for a few slowdowns here and there. It is not a movie primarily of survival after all. I think it is a movie about hope, courage and innocence and it portrays these themes remarkable well. The injection of fantasy in this film is also a great sight to see and is appropriate since we are viewing the world in the eyes of Wallis.

I recommend this movie to anyone who wants a unique, highly original and moving experience. And I am excited to see more of Wallis as she grows and matures into a better actor and is featured in more movies. This kid has a bright future ahead, and Beasts of the Southern Wild is just the start.

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