Beasts of the Southern Wild opens today in New York and Los Angeles, and the film seems to be more than living up to the praise it recevived at Sundance and Cannes. Featuring amazing performances from first time actors Dwight Henry and eight-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, this film seems destined for major award attention later this year, especially for director Benh Zeitlin.
Here is what the critics are saying.
“This movie is a blast of sheer, improbable joy, a boisterous, thrilling action movie with a protagonist who can hold her own alongside Katniss Everdeen, Princess Merida and the other brave young heroines of 2012. There are loose threads you can pull at — sometimes the wide-eyed wonder slides toward willful naïveté, and there are moments of distracting formal sloppiness — but the garment will not come unraveled. A lot of thinking has gone into Beasts of the Southern Wild, about themes as well as methods, about the significance of the story as well as its shape. And it is certainly rich enough to invite and repay a healthy measure of critical thought. ” – NY Times
“One of the most striking films ever to debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a poetic evocation of an endangered way of life and a surging paean to human resilience and self-reliance. Shot along the southernmost fringes of Louisiana, cast with nonactors and absolutely teeming with creativity in every aspect of its being, Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut could serve as a poster child for everything American independent cinema aspires to be but so seldom is. A handcrafted look at the struggles of some of the poorest people in the United States is no prescription for commercial success, but the presence of a dynamite little girl at the center of things could, along with critical praise and enlightened handling, push this most unlikely but entirely elating drama into a successful specialized theatrical release.” – Hollywood Reporter
“Drifting in from various film festivals on smoke signals of lavish praise, the unique, fascinating and ultimately depressing film called Beasts of the Southern Wild— a low-budget independent film by Benh Zeitlin about survivors of apocalyptic Hurricane Katrina, shot in the back swamps of Terrebonne Parish, La., using local nonactors instead of Hollywood extras—is now ready to engage the movie-going public in the darkness of a dream. There is no guarantee that the movie-going public is ready. I don’t notice any critics offering to pick up its deficit tabs in case it floats away from good reviews. But get ready anyway. Brilliant, compelling and powerful, this offbeat look at a part of a world we live in but know nothing about is not going to disappear without at first making a noise.” – NY Observer
“At home in the Bathtub, a marshy swampland off the coast of southern Louisiana, 6-year-old Hushpuppy lives by a simple code: “When you’re small, you gotta fix what you can.” It’s a fitting mantra for Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, a stunning debut that finds its dandelion-haired heroine fighting rising tides and fantastic creatures in a mythic battle against modernity. Despite limited means, Zeitlin and his Court 13 collective conjure an expansive world in which to set this richly textured bayou pastoral, yielding an emotionally wrenching if somewhat meandering parable likely to register strongest among critics and cineastes.” – Variety
“Most Cannes audiences reward the official films here with grateful or tepid applause. The crowd at Benh Zietlin’s debut feature seemed ready to cheer the opening title. And no wonder. Or rather, many wonders. The sensation of this year’s Sundance Festival, where it won the top award for dramatic (fiction) film and for cinematography, Beasts is the odds-on favorite to take the Caméra d’Or prize for best Cannes first feature. Expect more hosannas when the movie opens in the U.S. June 27.” – Time