FILM: Beasts of the Southern Wild (12A)

“Once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub...”

The opening voiceover of Benh Zietlin’s extraordinary debut suggests a modern day fairytale.

However, there’s no happy ever after in Beasts Of The Southern Wild, a poetic and grimly compelling portrait of shattered lives in a fictional bayou where six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives off the sodden land with her father Wink (Dwight Henry).

He practises tough love so his little girl can survive the unforgiving elements but like all children she rebels against his teachings.

Hushpuppy’s journey of self-discovery is brilliantly realised, anchored by a tour-de-force, Oscar-worthy performance from non-actor Wallis.

Magical realist flourishes, such as a stampede of mythical creatures called aurochs, invite us to see this ramshackle world through Hushpuppy’s eyes as the levees burst, threatening to wash away her childhood innocence forever. Undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.

Released: October 19 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas), 93 mins