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Beasts of the Southern Wild


Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, LZA, Lowell Landes, Levy Easterly, Gina Montana, Pamela Harper, Jonshel Alexander

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Although not a masterpiece, this is certainly unlike any other film you'll see this year - or next. Six-year-old Hushpuppy (charismatic child player Wallis) lives with her ailing father (Henry, also excellent) in two shacks that form part of a ramshackle sea-level community below the levee that separates it from mainland Louisiana, and appropriately known as Bathtub.

In her vivid imagination, Hushpuppy, who lives in a trailer-on-stilts while daddy occupies the main shack, dreams of the great glaciers far to the south crumbling, releasing the gigantic aurochs (a cross between a bison and a giant warthog), long frozen in the ice.

It's a parlous, not to say perilous existence (her father raises chickens and catches catfish with his bare hands), threatened first when Hushpuppy, in a fit of pique, sets fire to the trailer, and then, after a massive storm, when floods inevitably engulf the few inhabitants of the close-knit community, who finally dynamite the levee to rid themselves of the still-rising water.

Taken care of by local welfare workers, the Bathtub crew escape and return to what's left of their homes, while Hushpuppy has one final adventure - involving a floating brothel - to come.

Wallis, an amazingly natural actress with an engaging range of expressions, is captivating as the kid, and the piece will prove rewarding for those with the patience to wait for affecting moments and poetic shots, although it must be admitted that the less tolerant may find this slow in a few parts and boring in a few others, and the wobbly camerawork irksome. See it for the child, though, and as a window into a little-seen world.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: StudioCanal (Entertainment-One). Colour by Alpha Cine.
92 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Oct 2012