Beasts of the Southern Wild
By Tom Sharp With on February 06, 2012

Beasts is a true Sundance film: bold, fresh, unknown actors (local residents of the Mississippi delta were used as actors), an epic story, beautifully photographed, and . . . . I have no idea what it was about! Ok, that is not quite true – I have a few ideas, but it is definitely a film that takes some thought and interpretation. There is a good deal of metaphor built into this play-turned-movie about the eroding Mississippi delta and the residents that fight to stay, even though they live in abject poverty. The story centers around Wink and his 6-year old daughter Hushpuppy (the amazing Quvenzhané Wallis), who live off the land/water on an island in the Mississippi delta. Though by all external standards they live in abject poverty, there is a pride and joy in how life is lived and celebrated, Bayou style. Beasts incorporates semi-mythological apocalyptic themes linked to a warming planet (as the water rises, so will their small strip of land be eventually under water), but it is mostly about a little girl who is being taught to be strong, independent, and to see her bayou existence for the beauty it has to offer. It is about a father-daughter relationship, and about conquering fear. Throughout the movie, there are 4 prehistoric beasts that are running from the melting icecaps to a destiny with Hushpuppy, the 6 year hold central character. In the end, she meets them and stops them dead in their tracks, then returns to her dying father and faces that reality with strength. I’m not sure what that means, but I suspect it has something to do with taming her fears and accepting death. The spiritual things are rich in this film, albeit nuanced. Not only is there an implied judgment for our failure to be proper, God-ordained stewards of our environment, but there is a beauty of the human spirit fighting to survive and hold onto a simple, earth-connected life. I also loved the human connection of the prostitute holding Hushpuppy (I think it was her mom) – the dancing hug. And the film was simply beautiful both in music score and cinematography. There was an aesthetic quality to the film that transported you into the world and the story, a story of overcoming, of triumph of the human spirit, and a story of our connection to the earth.

About the Author: Tom Sharp

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