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Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writers: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar
Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes, Pamela Harper, Gina Montana, Amber Henry, Jonshel Alexander, Joseph Brown, Nicholas Clark, Henry D. Coleman, Kaliana Brower, Hannah Holby, Philip Lawrence, Jimmy Lee Moore, Jovan Hathaway, Kendra Harris, Windle Bourg
Synopsis: Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality
A Visual Masterpiece
In an era where original ideas are becoming almost extinct in Hollywood, it's refreshing to find that there are still a few movies out there to breath life into it every now and again. Fortunately, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is one of those rare one of a kind films.
Although I doubt most people have heard of this movie, due to it's limited exposure. However, it's arguably one of the best fantasy epics of last year. Not only does it have a solid character driven story arc, but it also features some gritty raw performances that'll captivate it's audience.
In a post apocalyptic future, it's unclear when this story takes place, nor is it ever clear how this world came to end up like this. However, the movie focuses on a six year old little girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), who lives with her father in a place mysteriously called "the bathtub."
In what looks to be like a post hurricane Katrina type setting, the bathtub is a relatively small town. Where instead of parents and teachers preaching to the kids about books, math and etc, they're taught about survival, and how they might need to fend for themselves someday if the polar ice caps begin to melt, and then flood most of the Earth.
Hushpuppy is like any other girl. Sure, she's resourceful enough to prepare her own meals, but she still thinks a cardboard box can protect her from a fire. Aw, isn't she just adorable? Quvenzhané Wallis made this movie, when she was only six years old, and to be honest, great wouldn't even begin to describe her performance in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
In fact, I'd dare even say that she's a natural when it comes to acting, as it's amazing how well her performance carried most of the movie. Yet, she was only six years old making this? It's very hard to believe, as you watch "Beasts of the Southern Wild", but it's true. Indeed, Quvenzhané Wallis is a natural, in her performance. No wonder why she was nominated for her role in this movie for the upcoming Academy Awards, as her nomination was certainly well deserved.
Anyways, to get back to the story, the bathtub soon becomes flooded to where most of the residents lose their homes, due to the polar ice caps melting. It's a sad sight to see, as Hushpuppy and her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), are forced to survive under harsh conditions. Along the way, they find out that there were other survivors among their neighborhood, so they closely band together.
Although Wink comes off as a bit of a hot tempered grouch at first, we soon learn that behind that exterior lies a man that deeply cares for his daughter's safety, and merely wishes to prepare her for the harsh realities of world. Throughout the film, he teaches Hushpuppy several things she needs to survive like fishing and such. Yes, he can come off as a bit hard on her at times, but then again, the times they live in aren't reasonable times.
It's a cruel world where sometimes one has to learn to survive on their own, even at a young age. The symbolism throughout the film is simply breathtaking. Not only does it capture the essence of the story, but it also manages to create arguably one of the most beautiful fantasy stories ever written.
However, a lot of the credit has to go towards Dwight Henry's performance as well. Like Quvenzhané Wallis, he too has little to no acting experience, but his raw performance is still very engaging to watch nonetheless. Granted, his performance isn't great, but it's enough to make the viewer realize how truly sympathetic his character is; which only makes it that much more heartbreaking, when Hushpuppy finds out that he's dying.
Like all children, Hushpuppy refuses to believe that her father is dying like this, but as her father points out, she has to learn to live with the reality that he won't always be around to protect her. That one day she'll need to learn to fend for herself, as the world isn't often fair.
The film is said to be based off a stage play called "Juicy and Delicious", as the filmmakers behind this movie even brought in Lucy Alibar, who wrote the original play, to help write the script. Although I can't comment on whether this movie is a faithful adaptation to the play or not, but I will say that the story is very engaging for what it happens to be.
As for the other aspects like cinematography, it was fairly decent for what you'd expect it to be. Granted, there's a few shaky cam moments to intensify certain scenes, but for the most part, the cinematography seemed more in ilk of what you'd expect from a documentary; which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, that's actually a great thing, as it helps create a realistic fantasy type world that has a uniqueness all it's own.
Although this film may not appeal to most mainstream audiences, it's worth checking out if you're into movies that invoke a lot of symbolism. Overall, I'd have to give this film a perfect four out of four.