Monday, 20 September 2010

Winter's Bone (dir. Debra Granik, 2010)

Plot: An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Winter's Bone is the film that conquered the Sundance film festival and looks likely to conquer the next Oscars due to its young starlet Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of a iron willed and warm hearted mountain girl.

Ree Dolly is a Missouri mountain girl who is made mother of the household due to her catatonic mother and absent father. She cooks cleans and does everything a mother should do for her young brother and sister while stricken in poverty.

When the local Sheriff arrives one day and gives Ree the news that her drug dealing father has put the family home up as collateral for his bail, Ree makes it her mission to find her father who may or may not be dead before they lose their home.

Winter's Bone is one of the bleakest and darkest films you will see this year but don't let that put you off as it's also one of the best. At it's core is a warm story about the lengths that a girl will go for her family no matter what the consequences are for herself, with its' young motherly lead character and its female director 'Winter's Bone' is very much in touch with its maternal side.

When Ree tries to track down her father, the locals take a sinister turn and warn her to keep out of her father's business. The underbelly of the town is largely hinted at and shown rather than talked about but it's clear that many of these locals as well as Ree's father are part of the cooking and selling of crystal meth.

The story and mood of the film is reminiscent of David Lynch's influential 'Twin Peaks', with its' northern rural town setting, missing person, shady locals and buried secrets. This link was made all the more relevant when Twin Peak's very own Sheryl Lee makes an appearance half way through the film.

The focus of the film is on Ree's character and the media have given much praise of 19 year old Jennifer Lawrence's performance and rightly so. As amazing as she is, another performance steals the show with John Hawkes tragic take on Ree's uncle Teardrop who is an interesting and troubled man worthy of a film himself in many respects.

At one point in the film Ree has been severely beaten by the locals for not adhering to their wishes, after she has been cleaned up by her best friend all Ree cares about is that her brother and sister get their homework done, this is the kind of person Ree is. The poverty in 'Winter's Bone' is awful to imagine but is also refreshing to see on the big screen, so many Hollywood films brush America's devastating poverty under the carpet by giving their characters swanky jobs, big houses and attractive vain friends. In 'Winter's Bone' this is as real as it gets, the American dream isn't on the mind of Ree as she struggles to feed her family each night and teaches her siblings how to use a rifle in case anything happens to her.


If Jennifer Lawrence doesn't win best actress for this then to hell with the Oscars, we could have the next Charlize Theron on our hands with her promising talent. 'Winter's Bone' is a bitter pill to swallow but is also a film with a heart so big and so real that it is hard to resist...expect to hear a lot more about this title and especially Jennifer Lawrence over the next few months.

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