Beasts of the Southern Wild is a wildly entertaining, emotional adventure. The movie, which is the directorial debut from Benh Zeitlin, appeared at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Caméra d'Or award. It also won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered. So did it deserve those awards? I haven't seen everything it competed against but, from what I have seen, I would say it certainly did.
The film follows Hushpuppy, a 6-year-old girl living in a southern delta community beyond a massive levee called the Bathtub. Her mother is out of the picture and the child lives in a separate shack from her father, Wink. Their relationship is at times extremely difficult to watch. It feels very cold. It's obvious that Wink is trying to train his young daughter to be able to survive their harsh world once he's gone. There is no coddling. You get the feeling he loves her, but I can only think of a couple of scenes in the film where you can truly tell.
Wink, Hushpuppy and the entire community living in the Bathtub love their home, but their world is obviously a very difficult place to thrive. On top of that, they are put to the test by a deadly storm that nearly tears their entire world apart. We also learn about an army of prehistoric creatures that would easily be able to destroy them all. Those creatures are wakened when the iceberg in which they are frozen breaks. As things become increasingly dangerous, the creatures move closer to the Bathtub.
The largely unknown actors in this film are outstanding. First of all, Quvenzhané Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy, was unbelievably good. This child gave a truly Oscar-worthy performance. She also narrates the film and we truly feel for her as she learns to survive practically on her own.
Her father Wink, played by Dwight Henry, was also great. While I almost felt angry with him, it is obvious he just wants his daughter to be able to survive. Wink deals with a strange illness throughout the film that he at first tries to hide from his daughter.
Overall, I wouldn't be surprised if this film becomes a favorite at the 2012 Academy Awards. Behn Zeitlin does an incredible job telling a thrilling, emotional story that I would urge anyone to check out. I give this film 4½ stars out of 5.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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