Sundance Journal: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

Almost every year, one movie will dominate the buzz at the Sundance Film Festival over all the others. The screenings are near impossible to get into, because everyone wants to see it. In year’s past, such films have included ‘Winter’s Bone‘, ‘Catfish‘, and ‘An Education‘. This year, it’s all about ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.

This really is an amazing film, and that’s not Sundance Goggles talking. (“Sundance Goggles” is a phenomenon that happens at most film festivals where mediocre movies get praised just because festival-goers want to love everything.) This is an honest-to-goodness Oscar contender already surfacing this early in the year. Will it continue to push its way through the rest of the year to be in awards contention later on? I sure hope so.

The movie is about a community of people who live on an island off the coast of Louisiana called the Bathtub. The island is like going back in time. People from the Bathtub have their own culture, their own rules and their own way of life. The levees that keep the water out of New Orleans cause this island to flood whenever there’s a hurricane. That’s okay, because the residents are used to it. They’ve fashioned makeshift boats out of truck beds. They’re perfectly adept at living in these harsh conditions.

The movie focuses on the hardships and trials of a little girl name Hushpuppy. Played by a young actress by the name of Quvenzhané Wallis, Hushpuppy deals with the loss of her mother, as well as a father who’s not all there in the head. Just like Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Winter’s Bone’, it’s instantly clear that this performance deserves to be recognized come award time. I’ve never seen such an emotional, evocative performance from such a young actress before.

It’s kind of hard to summarize the movie’s story, because it’s all about emotion and feeling. Honestly, there isn’t much of a plot, but there is a spirit that’s unmistakable. It’s a movie that grabs you from the first lines of narration and pulls you through the heart-wrenching depiction of Hushpuppy’s life.

The film was quickly picked up by Fox Searchlight and will get a release sometime this year. If there’s one movie from the festival to remember, it’s this one.

Note: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ won the Sundance Grand Jury Award.

Rating: ★★★★★

2 comments

  1. besch64

    I have been dreaming about this movie since I first read /Film’s review of it last week. This is my new Tree of Life. I almost can’t wait to see it. It just looks so beautiful.

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