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Review: Emotional 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is extraordinary

With indelible characters and an emotional, effective story, director Benh Zeitlin has made an inspiring film.

July 26, 2012|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

She is the film's central narrator and the dialogue the writers have given her reaches a level of poetic balladry that nearly sings of grit and determination. That tone is matched by the music. Composer Dan Romer and Zeitlin collaborated to create a more ethereal Cajun sound, as flavorful and lively as ever, but somehow softened by its orchestral seasoning.

The Bathtub itself comes at us from ground level, a patchwork of scavenged tin and wood rising out of the mud. It's all a little larger than life as seen from Hushpuppy's point of view. Director of photography Ben Richardson, whose work drew special notice at Sundance, creates an energy field around Hushpuppy. The camera was hand-held but steady as a rock and the result is a lyrical grace that turns detritus and rot into things of beauty.

Production designer Alex DiGerlando's attention to detail adds another noteworthy layer in bringing the place to life, every scrap of tin looks hand salvaged and the bed of a pickup that has become Wink's boat is a true wonder. The actual beasts of Hushpuppy's imagination were the province of Ray Tintori and are magnificent in their marauding.

Though the storm that hits the Bathtub is wild in its devastation, it is also a perfect one. For despite the travails, indeed perhaps because of them, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is infused with an excess of love and the unquenchable spirit of a young girl named Hushpuppy.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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