4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Thoroughly amazing and beautiful film,
This review is from: Beasts of the Southern Wild [DVD]  (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Once in a while a film comes along that, from the very beginning, captures your imagination and keeps you entranced and awestruck throughout. Usually, although perhaps you're not consciously aware of it, there's a lot of pressure on you to feel the same way as the hype, the reviews, the others who rave about how good it is. But before being offered this review copy and selecting it to watch, I had never heard of this film, and to me it was the best surprise I've had at the cinema (or in this case home cinema, i.e. TV) that I've had in ages.
I don't know if they give Oscars to children, but Quvenzhané Wallis - the main character and undeniable star of the film - thoroughly deserves one for her performance as Hushpuppy, a six year old who lives with her father in a forgotten part of the Louisiana Bayou in a ramshackle off-the-grid town called "the Bathtub". Hushpuppy has a good life without any of what we would call "modern conveniences", but there are problems coming her way in the form of a storm that could wipe out the village and her father, Wink's increasingly obvious health problems. The scenery, the characters, the dialogue and the touching relationship between Hushpuppy and Wink all combine to make this a film that not only draws you in, it practically engulfs you and - more than many other films - gives you the uncanny feeling that you yourself are actually there in the film. You don't so much watch this film as experience it.
The events of the story are told from Hushpuppy's point of view, and the dialogue she uses is both profound and poetic. What's more, the film cannot be easily classified into a genre. It's not a drama, but is dramatic in places. It's got some swearing in it, but can be watched and enjoyed by the whole family. The story is easy to follow yet has elements of mystery that are only answered through the viewer's interpretation of events. And most interestingly, the story is rooted in reality - by which I mean I could easily happen in real life - yet has elements of fantasy without it being a fantasy film. The beasts of the southern wild, as explained by Hushpuppy's teacher, are called Aurochs and throughout the film we see them thawing out of the icecaps and travelling to the Bathtub to destroy the village, their purpose essentially being to bring an end to the world. Is it really happening (in the context of the film) or is it in Hushpuppy's imagination? We are left to make our own minds up, and then towards the end of the film all the lines seem to get blurred and the viewer becomes an active participant in the story telling as he or she tries to make sense of what's happening. In this we are given one of the best and most moving endings of a film in recent times.
If I were you, I would read my next sentence and think, "well, yes he's over enthusing about this film because he got it free", but I assure you that's not the case. This film not only really entertained me, but it has also ever so slightly changed my overall outlook on life for the better. It'll stick with me for the rest of my life I think, especially the dialogue given by the people of the village at the end (I'm not going to be specific as that could be a spoiler). It made me feel strangely euphoric about life. I really urge you to watch this film.
Okay - an update - I had known before watching that this film was nominated for four Academy Awards. Not having heard of the film I guess that I thought they were minor ones, like best photography, etc - but I find out now from Wikipedia that the award categories are Best Picture, Best Director (Benh Zeitlin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin) and Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis). That's a testament to the quality of this film and I really hope that it and its cast and crew win one or all four of them. Oh, and Aurochs were real creatures once - go look it up.