Beasts of the Southern Wild is another Indie in a long line of Independent films from the Sundance film festival that have garnered major critical and award's attention over the years. The film, winning last year's Sundance Grand Jury prize, is impressive for its just over a million dollar budget, but lacks narrative cohesion.
The film is a tall tale, telling the story of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy, who lives with her dad, Wink, in a Louisianan delta bayou called the Bathtub. When Wink starts dying, Hushpuppy believes that the storm that floods their home is the fulfilling of an old tall tale about the melting of the polar ice caps and the coming of these large beasts that will ravage the land.
The acting performances are real strong in this film, especially considering that none of the actor's in the film had prior acting experience. This makes their performances all the more fascinating, in particular those of Dwight Henry as Wink, and Quvenzahne Wallis as Hushpuppy. The troubles with the film are the cinematography and the script.
The film's shot design by director Benh Zeitlin is cinematic, but thecinematography does little to capture Zeitlin's vision. The camera is very often out-of-focus, and frustratingly shaky, and I know it's handheld, but it's often too shaky to fully comprehend the visuals. As well, the fantastical elements of the story never seem to work in conjunction with the emotional story being told between Wink and Hushpuppy, with Wink teaching Hushpuppy how to be strong and learn to live on her own. In some ways, if the film were just about a father and daughter trying to survive a hurricane in a small Louisiana bayou with no fantasy, I'd buy it better. Which is strange, I tend to love fantasies, but the fantasy of this story just does not tie in real well with the true narrative. If it wasn't for the performances of Wallis and Henry, this film would not be as affecting as it is.
I give Beasts of the Southern Wild a D-