Many films these days are just churned out of the Hollywood machine for the sake of it, whether it being cashing in on previous films to manufacture a franchise where one really shouldn’t be or capitalising on the name recognition of a board game you’ve long since left carrying dust under the bed. But sometimes a film comes along brimming with youthful energy, heart and passion for the medium of film itself as much as the story at hand. Beasts of the Southern Wild is the latter.
Directed by first time feature director Benh Zeitlin, the film centres on a young girl named Hushpuppy living in a bayou community on rising waters and sealed off by a giant wall. We follow the girl as she deals with her ill father and her rugged, often dangerous surroundings.
Beginning with an absolutely stunning sequence involving a firework-fuelled party, this is exciting, vibrant filmmaking infused with a real sense of what it means for the audience to care about characters and what ultimately becomes of them. Its unusual setting gives it a visual uniqueness that invites you to soak in its atmosphere, to dart your eyes around the screen and take in the background goings-on as much as the compelling drama at the forefront. It’s uplifting without being sentimental, unique without feeling gimmicky and wholly unpredictable.
It features what can aptly be described as a sublime central performance from newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis (an Oscar nomination isn’t at all out of the question), belying her inexperience with a charismatic innocence. Watching her character‘s journey is a rollercoaster of emotions, from having to deal with her grueling day-to-day life to her thriving as part of her makeshift community while developing courage beyond her years.
Striking imagery and oddly perfect soundtrack choices are abound in a film where even the narrative missteps – chief among them a hospital sequence that feels like it’s from another movie – are transfixing in their own ways. Already a hit around the world at festivals and sure to be a strong Oscar contender, Beasts of the Southern Wild is compelling, beautifully raw cinema.
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Beasts of the Southern Wild is released in UK cinemas on October 19th.