Films Reviewed from a Spiritual Perspective

Archive for August, 2012

Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild (PG-13)

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a rich journey of the heart into the dark, damp world of the Southern bayou. It views this world entirely from the viewpoint of its six-year-old antagonist, Hushpuppy. Through her eyes, we celebrate the real meaning of home and the connectedness of all life.

Just as the bayou offers a mosaic of life and death, this film offers many contrasts for the spiritually inclined to ponder. This is not a film that offers specific moral lessons to understand, but rather it is an experience to be absorbed. Viewed through our head, Hushpuppy’s world is one of horrible, unacceptable squalor. Felt through the heart, her world is brimming with the bliss and agony of life. Our moralistic view of poverty is challenged as we observe this child’s uncanny wisdom about the nature of life and the interconnectedness of all.

This film also inspires as a vehicle through which new talent shines. It is the first feature film from 30-year-old Behn Zeitlin, and this freshman effort is already being hailed as a masterpiece and has won prestigious awards at Cannes and Sundance film festivals. Furthermore, the film is cast entirely by unknown actors, all of whom deliver believable, emotion-filled performances. Especially amazing is the flawless performance by Quvenzhane Wallis, only six years old at the time of production. It is a huge risk for any director to take on a film that relies so heavily on the performance of a child, especially one so young, but this young girl carries the entire film from beginning to end with her natural charisma and talent.

 Spiritual Bottom Line: This film offers much for spiritual practitioners, both inspiring and challenging the viewer.

Quality Grade: A+

Review: To Rome with Love (R)

To Rome with Love is the latest offering from movie-making icon Woody Allen. It offers layered storytelling and usual the romantic entanglements, but unfortunately it is neither as witty nor as insightful as most other Allen films.

Like many Woody Allen films, To Rome with Love deals with contradictory aspects of the human psyche, especially those that lead us to be dishonest or disloyal to those we love most. As is typical of most Allen films, no spiritual solutions to humanity’s psychological dysfunctions are presented. Yet, from a spiritual perspective, there may be value in exploring the darker aspects of human nature in order to shed light into the darkness.  At his best, Woody Allen does just that – he forces us to look and laugh at the most irrational parts of the human mind, thereby allowing us to stop taking ourselves so seriously – a worthy spiritual objective in its own right. But in this film there are a few observations of human nature beyond the obvious. And worse, this film is just not that funny, nowhere near as funny as you’d expect a Woody Allen film to be.

Woody Allen himself appears as a character in this film, playing the usual nervous, obsessed neurotic. Allen is now seventy-something, and watching him play this character yet again at this age makes me yearn for some evidence of the character’s (and perhaps Allen’s) growth. Other of Allen’s more recent films, such as Midnight in Paris, show that he still has much creative potential, and only time will tell to what degree it and his character’s growth will be fulfilled.

Spiritual Bottom Line: Fails to offer the introspection and insight of Allen’s better films.

Quality Grade: C+

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