Beasts of the Southern Wild is that rare American film in which we’re shown things from a fresh perspective. The film is familiar, yet new. Bold, yet restrained. It knows precisely when to roar, when to lay dormant, and, most importantly, when to wow. It’s a compelling breath of fresh air amidst the bombast of summer action blockbusters. It’s also one of the best films of the year so far. Here’s why.
Describing the film’s plot will get us nowhere, as it has not a shred of one. This is a character study of a girl and her vivid imagination. Part of her creative resourcefulness is manifested with frequent bouts of daydreaming. She talks to herself, imagines oft run-ins with giant beasts, and even converses with a mother she’s never met. The beauty of the film is that first time director Benh Zeitlin never lets things grow boring or inefficient. Zeitlin accurately puts us in the mind of a six year old, which, in trying to consistently retain the adult audience’s attention, is never an easy feat.
Moreover from encapsulating Hushpuppy’s imagination, Beasts of the Southern Wild is as much about where it is as who it is. Following Hurricane Katrina, we’ve seen an influx of stories aiming to capture the struggle of southern Louisiana. David Simon’s HBO drama Treme is currently the most engaging, but Beasts of the Southern Wild may be the most unique. The area it chronicles is a place I’ve never seen, but, through Zeitlin’s lens, was delighted to discover. In short, this movie is a worthy ode to the region it depicts.
Wallis deserves more recognition than a buried sentence, so I’m gonna give it to her. If you need a reason to see this movie (and believe me, there are plenty), see it for the wonder that is Quvenzhané Wallis. After a grueling casting search, Zeitlin had the good fortune of finding this young slice of life, who, in one 90 minute movie, has a greater command of the screen then most of the actors I’ve seen in movies so far this year. Beasts of the Southern Wild is tough on her. She’s forced to convey damn near every conceivable emotion, which she does, and convincingly at that. She makes the movie worth it, but like I said, she’s only one reason I suggest you let this marvel unfold before you. A-