A little girl lives with her father in a sheltered bayou community and goes in search of her mother as her father’s health begins to fail in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Six year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry) in an isolated shanty community called The Bathtub south of the levees in Louisiana. As her father’s health begins to fail and a storm rolls through, leaving The Bathtub entirely underwater, Hushpuppy believes the universe is out of balance and attempts to find her mother. Part of the universe being imbalanced means that a group of large beasts known as aurochs become thawed from the ice caps and are making their way south to The Bathtub.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is much more touching than I anticipated it being. Hushpuppy’s childlike wonder makes the film a blend of surreal fantasy and we are left to wonder what is really happening or what is her interpretation of the events. She knows little of her father’s illness because he keeps it from her and we, the audience, are also left mostly in the dark to the specifics. This also makes the aurochs a great force that is mysterious and their presence in the film is small but significant.
One thing that I normally point out when I review films is whether or not they use shakycam and then I point out how much I abhor shakycam. Beasts of the Southern Wild is shot entirely in this manner, but it works in the manner of the film and never feels out of place. In fact, after the first 15-20 minutes of the film, I barely even noticed because it just felt so organic.
First time filmmaker Benh Zeitlin really provides a lot of love here and Beasts of the Southern Wild is a film that is quite hard to describe in short. While the plot may be too esoteric for its own good, and certain scenes seem to lack focus, everything has its place in the film. I went in to Beasts of the Southern Wild expecting a Where the Wild Things Are if it had been directed by Terrence Malick but I was way off. Beasts of the Southern Wild is actually quite unlike any other film I’ve seen that is a story of survival just as much as it is about growing up.
I give it 5 auroch face-offs out of 5.
Fun fact: The aurochs in the film are completely different from their real, extinct namesakes. The creatures in the film were created by using baby pot bellied pigs with a nutria skin prosthetic.