At times Beasts of the Southern Wild feels more like a visual poem than a film. It’s recited through the eyes of its young hero, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), a girl of about 8 whose father insists on living the most back-to-basics existence, providing an inexplicably apocalyptic world for himself and his daughter on the American Gulf Coast. It spirals along through a journey exploring our roots with an idealised past, life, love and death, survival and monsters, each theme rhyming with the last.
Its apocalyptic backdrop for the father/daughter relationship reminded me a lot of The Road, which provided equally stunning photography, even if Beasts has a little bit more air to let you breathe. Everything in this film has a texture, from the fishing, to the flood water, to the painfully temperamental love Wink shows his daughter – it can all be felt and it all feels immersive. Wallis shows remarkable tenderness and dexterity in her role, being taught strength by a father who is not sure how much longer he will be around to look after her. Just like the film, she’s a little beauty and Hushpuppy becomes one of the mythical creatures she dreams about.
Review by David Rank
Beasts of the Southern Wild is out now in the UK. Certificate 12A (UK). Running time 93 mins.
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