The buzz for Beast of the Southern Wild dates back to its premiere at Sundance earlier this year. The film was one of the most anticipated films going into the annual festival at Park City and critics touted the strong performances, fierce originality and a vividly rich story.
The film is currently running in limited release but is certainly worth seeking out. Since Sundance, the film has garnered a Certified Fresh rating over on RottenTomatoes, currently holding an 89% freshness rating. But that's not why you should seek this movie out.
In fact, it's the performances and tone of the movie that really set it apart from anything that has hit theaters this year. The film follows a six-year-old girl called Hushpuppy, as she and the few inhabitants of a forgotten bayou community struggle to survive. Recalling recent images of Hurricane Katrina, a fierce storm turns everyone's lives upside down and forces Hushpuppy to face reality.
In addition to Hushpuppy's child-like wonderment, there's also the complicated and conflicting, but ultimately powerful bond with her father, Wink, who is constantly nursing a bottle of alcohol and flying off into fits of rage. Hushpuppy must learn to face the unstoppable catastrophes she's dealt while finding a way to keep her father alive.
A majority of this film feels like a documentary. Director Benh Zeitlin does a phenomenal job in making you feel like The Bathtub is a real place. The film does fly off on occasional tangents about the universe and global warming, but the majority of the focus lies on Hushpuppy and Wink.
Lastly, there's plenty of quotable lines. The two that stick out the most are when Hushpuppy is defiantly shouting at her father, "I hope you die and when you die, I'll go to your grave and eat birthday cake all by myself!" and the bookend quote from the film about "a little Hushpuppy who lived with her daddy in The Bathtub."
Sure, there's male strippers, profane teddy bears and comedies hitting theaters this weekend, but Beasts deserves to be seen, if anything, because it achieves what so few films manage to do – transport you to another world while stimulating your intellect.
The film will slowly be expanding across the country throughout July. To find when Beasts is arriving in your city, visit the screenings page.