Beasts of the Southern Wild

As my daughters (aged 6 and 8) get older it’s interesting to see how and when they graduate from “kiddie” material (as regards books, TV and films) to older, more complex stuff. Recently I’ve been trying out some films on them which aren’t necessarily targeted at them, but which they might appreciate. With that in mind, this weekend I took them to see Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Beforehand I’d checked out the “Parental Guide” page on IMDB to see if there was anything in the film I didn’t want them to see, but all they mentioned was a little mild profanity (“Shit” and “damn”), an intense storm scene, some animal carcasses, and a splash of blood. One user says there’s some nudity from behind, but that’s incorrect (although even if there were, I think they could stand the sight of a bare bum with being psychologically scarred). I was surprised to see that it’s rated 12A in the UK, as I think a PG rating is plenty, and my girls certainly weren’t disturbed by anything in this film.

Interestingly the film itself deals with growing up, as a five-year-old girl living in harsh conditions has to learn self-reliance, confidence and independence and trying to understand her place in the universe. For a supposedly adult film it’s told almost entirely from the small child’s point of view, complete with heightened perceptions and imaginary monsters. Initially my daughters were unsure about it, partly I think because it was so different in style and approach from the things they’re used to seeing. Halfway through one of them turned to me and said “I don’t want you to buy this film” [on DVD]. But by the end they’d changed their minds and had really gotten into it. They had a lot of questions, and we talked afterwards about poverty, people who live on their own and who don’t want help from outsiders, even when their health or safety are threatened, and about why the father seemed angry all the time and what “tough love” is.

On the whole I’d say it was a pretty successful experiment, and while they’re not ready to ditch Disney just yet, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other alternatives to Hollywood CG cartoons in the future. Especially things like this which open their eyes to other cultures and ways of life.

The one thing you need to be aware of when taking kids to non-kid films at the cinema, however, is the trailers, which are likely to be for other, more “adult” films. My heart sank when the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s violent (duh) western Django Unchained came on. Thankfully it was only a brief, non-violent teaser featuring plenty of shooting but no blood. The 6yo said “I don’t want to see that film. It’s all about guns”.