Wednesday, 12 December 2012

LIFE STORIES: Two terrific films examine the heights and depths of friendship and family

WILD AT HEART: An arresting chronicle of the father-daughter bond, Beasts of the Southern Wild explores the rigours of making life under unimaginable circumstances while forging a close-knit relationship with a cherished loved one. Deftly directed by Ben Zeitlin (making his feature-film debut), it’s a compassionate story, full of captivating imagery and strong performances and populated by a cast of non-professional actors, led by the year’s biggest breakout star, eight-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, who stars as Hushpuppy, a precious little dynamo who lives with her father (Dwight Henry) in a downtrodden bayou community known as the Bathtub. With the advent of deadly flood waters, their lives as well as their bond are put to the ultimate test. Wallis is a revelation, who deserves every award nomination headed her way for her astonishing work in an extraordinary film that will move you to tears and seriously challenge your notions of survival and what it means to be a family. A 

PASSING THROUGH: Kristen Stewart steps out of the Twilight zone long enough to tramp it up as a drug-addled free-spirit named Marylou in Walter Salles’ ultimately satisfying silver-screen adaptation of the 1957 Jack Kerouac bestseller On The Road. As the title slightly suggests, it transports you, road-trip style, into the sex, drugs, and Beat-generation lives of its characters. And what complicated creatures they are: Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), the fledgling writer facing financial hard times; his friend, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund, superb), who believes life is an endless cycle of getting high and hitting the road; and his naïve, too-forgiving second girlfriend (Marylou is the first), played by Kirsten Dunst, who is always seconds away from kicking him to the curb. All the actors give good accounts in this probing examination of youth and growing up, but it’s Hedlund who makes the biggest impression, with a performance so mesmerizing it breaks your heart. B

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