Everyone should see Beasts of the Southern Wild!

It is a triumph!  Once in a while, a film comes out of nowhere and takes you on an amazing journey–Beasts of the Southern Wild is that film this year.  It heralds a first time director, a cast of untrained actors and an honest portrait of a remarkable American community.  It is powerful and unforgettable.

Writer/Director Benh Zeitlin has created an allegorical story with many themes. Survival. Friendship. Culture. Society. Parenting. Independence. The universe and strength. Written with Lucy Alibar and adapted from Alibar’s one-act play Juicy and Delicious, BOTSW is a raw, unapologetic look at life in a desolated bayous of the Delta. You discover that even in what we would call poverty–there is pride and a connectivity to the earth that allows for love and joy.

The reason this film works on so many levels is because of the incredible performance of its 6-year-old star. Quvenzhané Wallis is an American original. A child who is shaped by her environment. Hushpuppy (yes, that is her name) is courageous, stubborn, imaginative and unbelievably strong. Wallis is a revelation. I think she can win an Oscar–it is that much of a tour de force performance. WOW! I can not wait to see what the future holds for this young lady.

The rest of the cast is perfect. Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy’s father, Wink, is the only other major player and is heartrending and believable as a man trying to educate his child how to survive in their world without him.  The rest of colorful characters are never fully developed and that is a minor let down for me. Although it did not ruin the story, I would have liked to have known them better (especially the group of little girls that join Hushpuppy in her journey–I wanted more on their relationship).

The only aspect that did not work for me was the imaginary subplot of the giant, mythical creatures that were being used symbolically for various things. I got it. I understood what the purpose was, but I felt like it never truly connected to the narrative. If Hushpuppy had been interacting with them throughout I would have found more meaning in their eventual confrontation. I felt that it was an unnecessary thread. But, still it did ruin it as a whole.

If you are able to find this film by you, I recommend you check it out.  You will come out with much to discuss and think about. I was a little sad, a little happy and very impressed. I feel like this film is important. It addresses big themes and forces you to feel and think about our existence on this planet. That is the power of cinema. And Beasts of the Southern Wild uses that power beautifully.