Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie about death: about the death of a place and the death of a person. Young Hushpuppy (Quevenzhané Wallis, a tiny miracle) lives in the Bathtub, an island off the southern coast of Louisiana, that is destroyed by a hurricane at the same time that her single, emotionally distant father Wink (Dwight Henry, a slightly larger one) is succumbing to a mysterious illness. And yet, like all the greatest stories of death, it is also about life, about the stubborn immortality of childhood giving way to the more ephemeral ecstasies of existence. Few movies this year feature more agonizing scenes than those between Hushpuppy and Wink. This father is cruel to his daughter, and the movie does not ignore the impact of his neglect - just as it does not ignore the realities of global warming and the impact it will have and is already having on the southern Louisiana coast. But Wink does love his daughter in his strange, limited way, and Hushpuppy is a blinding streak of light: she, like all of us, may ultimately be doomed, but until then, she’ll take life by its horns, both literal and metaphorical.