Friday, July 13, 2012
Written and directed by Debra Granik, Winter's Bone stars Jennifer Lawrence (in her first big role before gaining more mainstream attention with The Hunger Games) as Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl looking for her father after he appears to have jumped bail, which he supported by leveraging the family home. If he no-shows a court appearance, the family loses the house. To find her father, Ree goes up against a very insular, dangerous society that doesn't like it when people, especially women, talk.
We get a few hints about Ree's father. We learn he was cooking meth and involved with some shady people, but the movie wisely doesn't bog down with the details of drug-dealing and crime. It's just part of the background, soaked into the lives of these people that it goes without saying. This world is cold and grey, the trees stripped of leaves and fruit, and everyone seems to be bearing some kind of inner hurt. These characters aren't stereotypical rednecks and good ol' boys. They realize their squalor and aren't proud of some of the things they do.
Winter's Bone is bleak, grim, and tough. The same story elements - girl on a search through the wilderness - could have made for a thrilling adventure tale, but Granik instead turns the film into an unflinching gaze at misery and determination.