Beasts of the Southern Wild

 
Devastatingly moving drama has harsh truths, whimsy, wisdom.
  • Review Date: June 26, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Steely resolve and courage can see you through the toughest of times, but you still need the love and warmth of family.

Positive role models

Hushpuppy is strong and brave and very precocious for her age. For a 6-year-old, she has a very wise outlook on serious matters, including  death. She doesn't let anything keep her down, and she believes in her power and ability. Her father is deeply flawed and sometimes hurtful, but he loves her fiercely.

Violence

A character slaps his child once to discipline her, and she hits him back; he also taunts her to toughen her up. A child starts a fire. Three men blow up a dam.

Sex

A father discusses the night of his child's conception (but not in a lewd way). Kids dance in a brothel.

Language

A couple of uses of "s--t" and "p---y," plus "ass," "damn," "hell," "crap," and "goddamn."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of drinking, including off-label hooch, beer, wine, vodka, and other hard liquor. A man shares his liquor with his very young daughter.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Beasts of the Southern Wild is a heart-wrenching fable that's so unique that it's hard to classify. It's a drama about an alcoholic father who means well but has few tools to convey his love to his spitfire 6-year-old daughter. It's a celebration of quirky friendships and the power of the imagination. It's an indictment of the deep divide that separates the rich and the poor. And much more. Expect some swearing; kids and adults both say the word "p---y." There's also lots of drinking, brutal depictions of abject poverty, an adult striking a child, and discussion about the death of a parent.

What's the story?

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) is as fascinating as her name: As she walks around the cluttered, broken-down trailer in which she lives and the town in which she was raised, she picks up little creatures and objects -- a leaf, a rat -- and listens for their heartbeat. She's looking for signs of life. Across from her, in an equally dilapidated trailer, lives her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), who loves her fiercely but also loves to drink and wanders the days in a semi-drunken state, sometimes enraged, other times animated, and always, heartbroken. (Hushpuppy's mother is dead.) They live in Bathtub, a Lousiana bayou town in the shadows of a giant levee, filled with renegades like them who live hard and celebrate even harder. But when the levee breaks, there's not much to celebrate as they struggle to survive.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD proves that you don't need the bombast of a too-loud soundtrack and superhero excess to make an audience feel, deeply and achingly. Hushpuppy's devastatingly impoverished but imaginative life in the bayou is enough. Destruction needs no embellishments, poverty no fireworks. The film takes flights of fancy, but they share space well with harsh realities. The juxtaposition is outstanding, and they make you question your own suppositions -- something few films do. Is Wink a bad father, or is he remarkable given the circumstances? (The casting director deserves an award for finding two of the most compelling actors to debut in a film: Wallis and Henry are both acting novices, though you wouldn't know it from the potency of their work here.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild unfolds through Hushpuppy's eyes, and it's a sight to behold: sometimes wondrous, often disordered and dysfunctional. It's hard not to see the film through a political lens even if you're apolitical. But there's no stridency here: Fantastical moments and a fantastic script manage to juggle so much with grace. As Hushpuppy says, "The entire world depends on everything fitting together just right." But her world is one where wealth and squalor co-exist all too easily, the discrepancy painfully obvious (even though we don't really see the other world), the puzzle pieces not equal in weight or importance. Yet the hardscrabble people of Bathtub still find a way to channel their joy, even though they've been forgotten.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Beasts of the Southern Wild depicts drinking. Are there realistic consequences?

  • What is the movie saying about fathers and their daughters and the ties that bind them? Is Wink a flawed father?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about Hurricane Katrina: Who suffered most in the end? How does this movie reference the social issues that the hurricane brought to light?

  • How does Hushpuppy cope with the difficulties in her life? Is she aware of them? How does she compare to other movie girls?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 27, 2012
DVD release date:December 4, 2012
Cast:Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes, Quvenzhane Wallis
Director:Benh Zeitlin
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Genre:Drama
Topics:Great girl role models
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality

This review of Beasts of the Southern Wild was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byDeladiramom July 8, 2012
age 11+
 

A Tribute to the Beast in All of Us

An amazing film about love, survival and courage. I took my 7-year-old and 9-year-old to see it, a decision I’m not sure would repeat because this is a tough film for young kids. It contains lots of complex adult material and a mythical beast that had my daughter burying her head in my shoulder a few times. But the rich story is told through the eyes of a child and there is so much to like that we all came away proclaiming it a winner. For kids who live protected lives in cities and suburbs and who know little about living close to the land, this is a gripping look at what it’s like to grow up in the grandeur and at the mercy of nature. For adults who find it hard to understand why anyone would choose to live in poverty-stricken rural communities, this film provides an intimate window into the sour-sweetness of living among souls who are fiercely independent, yet so collectively vulnerable. For rural viewers, this film is a love song, celebrating a way of life seldom depicted so respectfully. The Beasts sets the stage for deep conversations with youngsters about the imperative of resilience in the face of life’s toughest challenges. Young Miss Wallis and Mr. Henry’s performances are magnificent, and the music will resound in my heart for a good long while. I was forewarned about the alcoholism and violence ahead of time, so I discussed it with my children before entering the theater. They handled it fine. We all were a little teary-eyed at the end.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 10 years old July 14, 2012
age 14+
 

Depressing film was one of my favorites.

I thought this movie was one of the best movies I've ever seen. If you like movies that have lots of heart to it, I would highly recommend this movie to you. The main character, Hushpuppy, in very inspiring. What I liked about her is how selfless she is. One of the things that I found hard to watch was how bad her father is. He spends most of his time drinking and getting drunk as a pirate with a bottle of rum in his hands. In one scene he gives an alcoholic beverage to Hushpuppy. Also in another scene, he slaps her because she didn't do what he asked her to do. He also pressures her to be stronger and fiercer. The film is based when Hurricane Katrina happened, so it can be a bit scary and tense at some parts. There is also a big explosion, and Hushpuppy causes a fire. This movie has a fair amount of strong language. There is one use of s--t, and people say ass in front of children, they also say p---y in front of children (one used by Hushpuppy as she narrates). If you are a parent reading this, and you want to see this film with your child, I advise them to check in with them at the hard scenes. This movie is a mixture of sadness and happiness, but mostly sadness.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 8 and 10 year old Written bylititzmom September 3, 2012
age 14+
 

Amazing, haunting... for teens and up

This is a beautiful, haunting, sad, and mystical movie. Background setting is a fictional Bayou island community in Louisiana, about to be flooded out by rising waters by Katrina (and melting ice caps). Main plot revolves around Hushpuppy, a 6-yr-old girl who lives with (well, actually, in her very own shack next door) her hard-living dad, Wink. He's stubborn & sick, and refuses to leave "the Bathtub" (what they call their community), even when FEMA (?) order an evacuation after the flood. It's an amazing film, filled with hope and sorrow, and gut-wrenching poverty. It gives such amazing insight to how some live so close to the land (and obviously, water), and are so at the mercy of the land, the water-and thus the ever-changing climate and conditions. What is uplifting, among other things, is how the small community of "Bathwater" loyalists band together as a collective family. There are disturbing sights of drunkenness, and some rough language. And for a movie whose protagonist throughout is a 6-yr-old, it deals with mature themes that are unsuitable/too disturbing for younger children.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass