A child’s imagination is a special thing. It makes the world seem more mystic than it is, more wondrous and more simple. And that’s what makes Beasts of Southern Wild so damn intriguing.
We’re in the Bathtub, which you later find out is on the outskirts of a levee in New Orleans. Flooding leaves the citizens of this forgotten town in trouble and the government comes out to try to save them. Except that they don’t want to be saved, they just want to live.
You see this not from an adult perspective, like most movies. You see all of this from the perspective of Hushpuppy, a six year old girl played brilliantly by Quvenzhane Wallis even though she’s never acted before.
We follow Hushpuppy as she deals with the harsh realities of the world, like a Hurricane Katrina-like storm and her father contracting a mysterious illness, with her mighty imagination and her quest to find her long lost mother.
This movie is like watching a canvas of poetry at times. It’s amazingly interesting to look at, although the shaky cam is super extreme in the first half of the movie. The beasts, the characters mingling with each other and Hushpuppy’s imagination just draw you in.
The performances in this film also do a good job of drawing you in, but that’s probably because it’s filled with new faces that aren’t even professional actors. They are literally people they picked up off the street and plugged them into the movie. The stand outs are Wallis and her father in the film Dwight Henry. There’s a sort of electric energy you can feel when Henry and Wallis are there together, it’s absolutely mesmerizing. And Wallis is just absolutely charming, emotional and determined. She’s a blast to watch and there’s no way she doesn’t get nominated for something.
But because we’re seeing this chaotic world from the eyes of the child it’s easy to get lost at times. In fact, you may not understand what’s happening in the first 30 minutes of the movie. We’re just watching as Hushpuppy explores her world, causes a fire and hides in a box and runs around. Then they start throwing in her imaginations of the might beasts running through the world. It’s brilliant to watch, but there’s no momentum for the film until the storm arrives. Then it all settles in and shoots to a pounding finish.
That’s all anchored by Wallis’ extraordinary performance and that we get to see the world from the creative mind of Hushpuppy rather than an adults. It makes everything seem more alive, more magical and extremely intriguing.