Beasts of the Southern Wild is the kind of film that could only be made by a first time director. No auteur would take the kind of risks of director Benh Zeitlin. In story and direction, this extraordinary film leaps off a fantastical cliff with scrap-yard wings and somehow manages to soar. Its minor imperfections melt away in light of a remarkable and beautifully realised world.
Hushpuppy (an incredible Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in Bathtub: a swampy, wild Bayou community. We see the industrial outside world from Wink’s makeshift boat constructed out of pieces of cars. “Isn’t it ugly?” he says to Hushpuppy, commenting that nothing could compare to the beauty of their home.
Benh Zeitlin restless camera presents the Bathtub as boisterous and brutal but not lacking in love. The images are so evocative you can almost taste the salty sweetness of the crabs and the resident’s sweaty camaraderie. Hushpuppy is an energetic tomboy angered by Wink’s tough parenting approach but irretrievable bound to him by the fiercest loyalty and love. The subtle way that we come to understand their relationship is testimony not only to writers Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar, but also the actors (most in their first roles). In her debut, Quvenzhané Wallis gives what is undoubtedly one of the great child performances.
To try and describe or categorise Beasts of the Southern Wild is impossible and perhaps beside the point. This is a joyous, startling, mythical and altogether remarkable movie.
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writers: Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar
Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly
Beasts of the Southern Wild will be released later in the year by Icon Films