Film Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is an affecting and incredibly authentic drama. Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature is very memorable thanks to its imagery and distinctive characters.

Hushpuppy lives with her father in the Bathtub, a small community on the Louisiana Delta. Her father’s fading health coincides with a disruptive storm. After her teacher warned of the melting of the ice caps and the appearance of prehistoric creatures called aurochs, Hushpupy must find the courage to survive…

Beasts of the Southern Wild has a distinctive style. Its imagery, unfolding of the narrative and cinematography make it stand out from other films. There is a real sense of authenticity that permeates the entire film. The shooting style, with the use of a handheld camera, makes the it feel almost like a documentary. There are plenty of tracking shots and close ups. The narration by young Hushpuppy further emphasises the pseudo-documentary appearance.

The central character of Hushpuppy is cute yet well developed. The audience sees a myriad of issues through her perception. Viewing the world through a young child’s eyes mixes slight elements of fantasy in with the drama. What is affecting, however, is her relationship with her father and her struggle to understand more mature issues as a young child.

The casting of the film is spot on. The characters in Beasts of the Southern Wild seem natural and of the vicinity, rather than actors performing a role. Quvenzhané Wallis is excellent as Hushpuppy, delivering a strong performance despite her young age. Music in the film also works well.

Beasts of the Southern Wild offers something a little different from the mainstream. It is an enjoyable and rewarding debut.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012. It is released in cinemas on 19th October 2012.