7:00 PM, 16th March, 2013
Beasts of the Southern Wild is the vivid debut feature of American director Benh Zeitlin. Blending fantasy adventure with powerful realism, it bustles with imaginative energy, evocative visuals and a universally human message.
Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Wallis) lives with her hot-tempered and unwell father Wink (Henry) in the ‘Bathtub’, an isolated community cut off from the Louisiana mainland. As a result of melting ice-caps, a fierce storm threatens to destroy the community – instilling a pervasive fear into the lives of the residents.
We see the world as Hushpuppy does, as an entanglement of creatures trying to survive in a capricious environment. She is afraid of the unknown, yet at the same time invigorated by awe. She confronts everything that comes her way with a pugnacious courage.
Hushpuppy’s relationship with her father is characterised by two extremes of dependence and separation. The oncoming storm brings them closer together as they fight for survival, yet immediately after they are wrenched apart as a result of Wink’s deteriorating health. Hushpuppy does everything she can to maintain their bond, which is overwhelmed by poverty, illness and the cruelty of nature.
The film says plenty about a world ravaged by the effects of global warming, but its strength comes from Wallis’s outstanding performance as the pluckily tenacious Hushpuppy. Beasts has swept awards all over the globe: from four in Cannes to numerous others on the American circuit. Zeitlin is an exciting talent, and has made a film springing with imagination and energy.
8:48 PM, 16th March, 2013
“On the Road” was never going to be an easy book to translate to the screen. It’s not so much a plot as a series of autobiographical based-in-fact road trips used as a backdrop to a story about one man’s attempt to find himself against the backdrop of the sex, drugs and jazz of the late 1940s. Taking up the challenge is Brazilian director Salles, who has some experience after his work on The Motorcycle Diaries in 2004.
Between 1947 and 1950, Sal (Riley) and his friend Dean (Hedlund) make a number of trips together, full of the free spirit (and free love) of the Beat Generation. Sal is in search of meaning in life – religion is a significant theme – while Dean more readily embraces the carefree attitude of the time. Sal shows signs of being ready to grow up, but the childish behaviour of Dean is a constant temptation. As is so often the case, the physical journey is allegorical to the emotional journey of the central character.
The film is certainly not of the standard of The Motorcycle Diaries, but there are some excellent moments and great performances, especially in support from Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen as characters run into along the way. Even Stewart of Twilight fame does a good job as Dean’s wife Marylou. The script attempts to cram too much of the novel into its length and you can’t help but feel that a leaner script would have allowed Salles
to craft a better film. Those moments where enough time is given do make this a film worth seeing.