If "Where The Wild Things Are" was not already taken as a title, I suspect Beasts of the Southern Wild, the astounding feature film debut of Benh Zeitlin, might have come to us by a different name. But nomenclature aside, Beasts is a captivating and startling work inhabiting a world that's all its own. I'm still reeling from watching it yesterday, and in an attempt to ground myself a bit, I've been examining some critical reviews of the film, and the profound cynicism expressed in some of them has filled me with a great sadness (Time Out Chicago's review was the worst, curtly dismissing the film as "Katrina as George W. Bush might like to remember it" - a statement of irresponsible apathy; with the exception of The Tree of Life, I can't think of any recent film that is as difficult to deconstruct as Beasts is, but TOC found a way to do it in the most classless manner possible. Kudos).
Delineating this film robs it of much of its power, and there's a lot of densely interwoven elements that shrivel up if you try and separate them. At once a coming-of-age story, a meditation on death and loss, a truly American tall tale, and an ominous apocalyptic portent, Beats of the Southern Wild is all of those things and none of them, at the same time.
I'm at a loss about what to write from here. A plot summary would be counter-productive. A procession of the film's imagery would be impotent in verbal form. And, quite frankly, I have nothing new to add to the conversation about the acting from Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry - they deserve every bit of praise they've gotten thus far, and then some.
Certain films take some time to settle in to your psyche before you can properly collect your thoughts on them. Beasts is such a film. Perhaps when the hurricane it has stirred up in my heart has calmed down, I'll be able to expound on it more thoroughly. Until then, though, the only thing I know for sure is that I can't wait to see it again.