Beasts of the Southern Wild

Posted July 18, 2012 by in


Total Score

5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: drama, fantasy
Director: Benh Zeitlin
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: 6/27/2012
Studio: Cinereach, Court 13 Pictures (as Court 13), Journeyman Pictures
What We Thought

A story of how a child perceives the world, filled with magic and wonder.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article

Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year-old black girl, and her father Wink (Dwight Henry), who live in “Bathtub,” a ramshackle community in the southern Delta.

Hushpuppy lives in her own shack built into a tree, separate from her father’s.  They live off the farm animals found on the property.

One day, her father returns home after a long absence wearing a hospital gown.  Hushpuppy pesters her father for an explanation, but he pushes her away.  Hushpuppy burns her shack down in retaliation, and runs from him.  He slaps her to the ground in return.  She tells him she wishes he was dead, and punches him, knocking him down in his weakened state.

As father and daughter clash, a violent storm threatens to destroy the community.  Some leave, but a few choose to band together and face the tempest and its aftermath—her father included.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is about how a child perceives the world.   Hushpuppy takes one of her teacher’s lessons to heart about the connectedness of all things.  We’re all pieces of the universe, and if one things brakes, it all comes crumbling down.   She blames herself for the storm and its aftermath; she punched her father, so a storm came.  Hushpuppy imagines glaciers melting, flooding her town, and letting loose the frozen beasts her teacher told her about—the Aurochs, horned boars that once threatened early man.

Of course, Beasts of the Southern Wild is also about their complex relationship.  Wink is negligent, leaving her on her own.  Her solitary shack puts her safety at risk, as she cooks with a gas oven unsupervised (don’t ask how she lights it).  He has her drink vodka once.  He’s even abusive, slapping her on one occasion, and throwing things at her on another.   But as bad as his parenting is, he loves her, and looks for her when she wanders off as the storm approaches.  He teachers her his crude way of fishing, so she can survive on her own one day.  There are a couple of key moments where he’s protective of her, and he does the right thing.  Scenes of the two bonding with one another are compelling, and the actors have a rare chemistry as on-screen father and daughter.

As I left the theater, I overheard a couple pondering what the title meant.  I offer that, as Hushpuppy’s teacher says, we are all animals—beasts—and to survive, we must be strong, even when we hurt.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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