Beasts of the Southern Wild Review: A Wonderous Look at Life and Death from the Eyes of a Child

Photo Credit: http://www.hollywood.com/news/Beasts_of_the_Southern_Wild_Trailer_Worthy_of_All_the_Buzz/26127677

The last couple weeks it seems that all the indie buzz has been on Beasts of the Southern Wild, and rightfully so. This effective drama might just be one of the best films of the year yet.

The largest reason that Beasts of the Southern Wild is as effective as it is rests on the startling performance from Quvenzhane Wallis. She is a revelation on screen and takes her character, Hushpuppy, to heights few other child actors in cinema history have been able to achieve. She handles the film’s complex themes beautifully and gives perhaps the most innocent examination of the circle of life ever.

Beasts of the Southern Wild deals with the people you saw on the news back in 2006 who refused to leave their homes when Hurricane Katrina was coming. But the smartest move the film makes is that it simply isn’t a shocking and depressing look at little known part of this country, like say Winter’s Bone. No this movie plays out more like a fairy tale, where every little detail is filled with magic, no matter how dark. This is also perfectly reflected in the score which walks a thin line of joyous and depressing.

At the heart of the story is Hushpuppy’s relationship with her father, Wink, played by Dwight Henry. In yet another fantastic performance, Henry manages to create a character we always understand, whether we agree with him or hate him. Wink rarely makes the right decisions for himself and his daughter, but he clearly loves little Hushpuppy with all his heart, even when he has trouble showing it. It’s just his way, making sure that Hushpuppy is as prepared as possible for this difficult life when he is gone.

Which leads back to the incredibly strong themes tied together in this story: growing up, and life and death. Hushpuppy character arc to understand pieces of the world just a little better is a powerful one. We get it heavily in the beginning and the end, which makes it too bad that the second act just goes on for far too long. It is the only real flaw in this otherwise excellent movie. There is just simply too much time spent treading water between the first and third acts.

But other than that, Beasts of the Southern Wild is quite easily one of the best films of the year so far. The performances by the two leads crush anything else you’ve seen in the last six months. It also creates an incredibly unique, and fairy tale like atmosphere on something that has since now been portrayed as horrific. This film is a powerful one on almost every level, and is not to be missed. Grade: A

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