Benh Zeitlinís feature film debut is something that is certainly something to be embraced, at least for this film reviewer. There is a love and imagination that Zeitlin throws to the world that feels enormous, magical, and heartwarming. Itís as if the director is making the aspect of film, particularly ďart house filmĒ, and an easy feat in of itself. Yet, while this film invokes the power cinema, the emotions that dwell and shape the viewers just seem a tad cold for the most part. Still, despite this viewerís idea of a bit of disconnectedness, Beasts of the Southern Wild is certainly a film that film goers should check out, especially if they want something more than the usual summer movie flair.
The imagination that Zeitlin exudes in the filmís plot has to do with the setting of The Bathtub, a shantytown surrounded by water, and isolated from the rest of the world. Living in The Bathtub is Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry). Itís their relationship that is the backbone of Beasts, never going for the sentimentality between father and daughter, but rather a more external struggle between the two. Itís savage and real, allowing the drama to unfold in a fully realized vision. But, Zeitlin never goes off to the deep end with that intensity, always willing to go for the joyous, neighborly atmosphere that the citizens of The Bathtub have for each other.
The interactions between the casts, particularly six-year Wallis as Hushpuppy, are astounding, as is Zeitlinís eye behind the camera. Unfortunately, the themes that begin to convey the filmís seem a tad cluttered, so much so that it sort of seeps into the plot itself. This could be the breaking point for some film goers on whether they can go along for the ride in this film, or just be left at the starting gate. Itís not very inaccessible, but there can be moments where the plot gets lost in trying to convey the message of the film.
But, the spectacle and love in this film certainly makes up for some of the misfires that Beasts brings to the table, and concludes in a pretty heartwarming and emotional conclusion for Zeitlinís film debut. Beasts of the Southern Wild may seem overwhelming and out of the ordinary for some film goers, but if youíre truly willing to jump in The Bathtub, perhaps youíll discover something completely new and refreshing that this review never even tapped into.