Beasts of the Southern Wild

by Sophia Harvey

I saw this fantastic film the other night at Lincoln Center and I have to admit that I wept nearly the entire length of it. No. Wept is the wrong word. I sobbed. At one point so aggressively that the other audience members felt the need to check in on me. But that’s not the point. The point is that it was powerful. And during the moments when I wasn’t sobbing, I was thinking that this is exactly the kind of movie I want to make. The pacing was marvelous, giving us just the right amount of time to get used to the bizarre rules of the Bathtub before destroying it. The performance of the child, Quvenzhané Wallis, is soul rendering. She is the ultimate example of a brave and imaginative heroine – everything that Disney Pixar Brave’s protagonist Merida was hinting at. The gorgeously gritty cinematography is what makes it though. Every scene is simultaneously bleak and grandiose. You feel the pride that the villagers feel in their makeshift little swamp-town in Louisiana. You feel their dispair when it’s destroyed. And you feel their determination to make it work every second of the film.

The only thing that took me out of it were the imagined Oryx that came into the story every now and then as Hushpuppy’s visualization of looming distaster. They are too crisp and stand out from the intentionally gritty film style. The beasts are almost cute. When they come in at the end to show Hushpuppy’s determination, in my opinion it spoils what would have been an otherwise beautifully humane moment. I understand why they were included. They accent the young girl’s unusually (although necessarily) mature demeanor and reveal her intact childish imagination.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic work. Hopefully it will inspire many many others.