DVD: Beasts of the Southern Wild | Film reviews, news & interviews
DVD: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Two great performances at heart of Hurricane Katrina drama
It's difficult to categorise Benh Zeitlin's feature debut, which is engaging and flawed in equal measure. Part drama, part dream-like experience, it was made as a riposte to the catastropically poor management of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
We don't know when this story is set, though; it could be modern-day or it could be just as easily in a post-apocalyptic future when climate change is wreaking havoc in the bayous of southern Louisiana, whose strange beauty the camera lingers on in several scenes without drama or dialogue.
It's set in a wetland area called the Bathtub by its poor and disadvanted residents, who barely survive as they raise livestock and pickle their livers on moonshine. Dwight Henry is Wink, a hard-drinking single father living in a filthy shack with his six-year-old daughter, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis). He's seriously ill, not just from an unnamed disease, but suffering from a broken heart after the loss of Hushpuppy's mother, a woman so beautiful, he says, that she could light the gas stove just by walking past it.
Normal life - school, police and other authority – barely impinges as the residents mostly live off-grid. When the flood (with its biblical overtones) comes, their homes are destroyed and Bathtub's residents are forced to move to the rescue centre, only to escape when they fear being taken into “the system” they have managed to live outside of for generations.
Some characters are straight out of the shucks-dawgone-missy school of Southern clichés, but it's a mostly entertaining 90 minutes, with occasional longueurs and some rather weirdly juxtaposed scenes of an Arctic ice shelf breaking up and falling into the sea. There are two exceptional performances from Henry and Wallis, who has been nominated for an Oscar, the youngest actress to be so, one of four nominations for the film.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Despite its shortcomings, film vehicle for The Clash is an essential pop-cultural document
Sensitive Swedish examination of identity and transgender love
Cate Blanchett steals her stepdaughter Cinders's show
Powell and Pressburger declared 'total film' with their 1951 Offenbach fantasia
Argentine anthology shows revenge can be crazed, witty fun
New to couture, designer Raf Simons races to prepare the Christian Dior collection
'Wild Tales' director reflects on his portmanteau film about ‘the pleasure of losing control’
Gary Cooper stars in one of the finest - and darkest - Westerns of the 1950s
Strong lead carries Norwegian depiction of the inner worlds surfacing after the onset of blindness
The female view dominates in a bleak and minimal western directed by Tommy Lee Jones
Ryan Reynolds shines in Marjane Satrapi's surreal portrait of an American psycho
French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan reveals stark new energy in his fifth film