Not since Quentin Tarrantino showed introduced Reservoir Dogs to the world 20 years ago as a director made such an impact with their debut feature as Benh Zeitlin does with Beasts of the Southern Wild. A movie that quickly won over critics when it debuted at The Sundance Film Festival last year, BOTS has gone on to earn itself a total of four academy award nomination including best director and best picture and has earned itself some huge supporters with president Barrack Obama describing it as ‘spectacular.
Beasts of the southern wild tells the story of young hushpuppy, a 9 year old girl who lives with her daddy in a little place known only as the Bathtub. Prone to flooding and poverty the residents prepare themselves for the next flood to hit their small village alongside Hushpuppy and her father, who is suffering from an unnamed illness through out the movie.
The most incredible thing in this movie is the performance of young Quvenzhale Wallis, who is now the youngest ever nominee for best actress and rightfully so. Watching her take on the role of Hushpuppy is one of the most moving things from the last 12 months of cinema. Defiant she stands as the world around her crumbles, describing the Bathtub as the most beautiful place in the world, her childlike qualities in balance with her unbreakable spirit. This was the performance of the year bar none, the movie would not have been the same without her presence on screen. Hushpuppy lives her in life in desolation, her father is sick, her mother is gone and her home looks set to be destroyed but it’s the bravery of the young girl that will really inspire the audience.
The relationship between young Hushpuppy and her father Wink provide the movie with some moments of pure magic. Whether they are arguing or punching fish their relationship packs a real emotional wallop, if the final scenes of this movie don’t bring a tear to the eye its probably about time to check your pulse.
Director Benh Zeitlin’s want for authenticity made him draft in an experienced actor to take on the role of Wink and what a gamble that turned out to be. Dwight Henry, a survivor of the New Orleans floods was took from his baker shop and flung into the role and he really makes it his own giving an incredibly powerful performance as a man struggling to cope with raising his daughter and the impending doom that he appears to be facing.
This really was one of the most amazing pieces of cinema I saw last year. Poetic, magical, inspiring, poignant, I really can’t say enough about this movie. A masterpiece.