Beasts Of The Southern Wild (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/10/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Benh Zeitlin's impressive and imaginative debut boasts a terrific performance from six yearold Quvenzhane Wallis and creates an extraordinary, almost magical child's-eye-view of the world through camerawork and direction, though it is also occasionally a little overwhelming.

What's it all about?
Directed by Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild is adapted from a one-act play by Lucy Alibar (who co-wrote the film) and stars six year old Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy, a young girl living in the ‘Bathtub’, a remote island community in the Louisiana bayou. When her single father Wink (Dwight Henry) gets sick, Hushpuppy sets out to find her mother, who abandoned her shortly after she was born.

Meanwhile, the Bathtub is at constant risk of severe flooding but when a horrific storm threatens their community, the residents seem fiercely reluctant to leave. And as if that wasn't bad enough, melting ice-caps release prehistoric creatures known as aurochs and they're soon stomping around on the bayou.

The Good
Newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis is an extraordinary find, delivering a stunningly assured performance that is simply breathtaking; indeed, the film is worth seeing for her alone. There's also strong support from Dwight Henry and an authentic-looking cast of non-actors who make up the rest of the Bathtub's residents.

The film is presented entirely from Hushpuppy's point-of-view, using a combination of voiceover and Ben Richardson's superlative subjective camerawork, swirling around the bayou and taking everything in as if through Hushpuppy's eyes (so adults are always presented as looming above her and so on). This has a transformational effect, presenting the world as the magical place Hushpuppy believes it to be, so by the time the aurochs arrive (and, brilliantly, get stared down by Hushpuppy), it seems like an entirely natural course of events; in fact, despite lacking personalities, their appearance feels like something out of Where the Wild Things Are.

The Great
Whilst there is a huge amount of pleasure to be had in both Wallis' performance and the presentation of her worldview, it's fair to say that the style of the film is occasionally a little overwhelming (not least because the camera hardly ever stays still) and the lack of a traditional narrative structure may not work for everyone.

Worth seeing?
Imaginative, beautifully shot and powerfully moving, Beasts of the Southern Wild is an extremely impressive debut that marks out both director Benh Zeitlin and star Quvenzhane Wallis as future talents to watch.

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Beasts Of The Southern Wild (12A)
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Content updated: 22/09/2018 06:37

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