An unlikely heroine emerges in “Winter’s Bone”

Winter's Bone promotional artwork

Writer and Director Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” is both a brutally honest immersion into the methamphetamine-ridden culture of the rural Ozark Mountain region, and an incredibly gripping tale of love and courage personified by a teenage girl.

The film’s protagonist, a 17, year-old girl named Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence),  divides her time between high school, and taking care of both her mostly unresponsive and mentally ill mother, her 12-year-old brother and her 6-year-old sister — receives message from the local Sherriff’s Department.

 

Ree teaches her siblings how to shoot a gun.

Her father, Jessup Dolly, a convicted methamphetamine producer and dealer has gone missing, effectively skipping out on the bail-bond for which he leveraged his family’s house and the timber land around it.

Young Ree, consequentially, is forced into a desperate search for her father in hopes to save her family and her home.

From there the film follows Ree as she traipses through the Missouri back-country, asking, and begging relatives and neighbors — including her uncle who is her father’s brother “Teardrop” Jessup (John Hawkes) who reluctantly lends a helping hand — for any information or assistance in regards to the disappearance of her father.

The film, which received both the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for dramatic films and the festival’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting award, paints an unapologetic picture of life in the world of backwoods meth traffickers and the people around them, while managing to avoid the air of superiority that films focusing on a depressed and downtrodden culture often do.

John Hawkes as "Teardrop" Dolly

 

“Winter’s Bone” also showcases excellent use of music and subtle sound effects to add a delicate and unobtrusive element of depth.

That, along with exceptionally well-timed violence, and limited but extremely effective nail-biting suspense, helps the film elevate to a level of realism that even an unlimited amount of special effects and big budget star power would be hard-pressed to duplicate.

“Winter’s Bone” is an exceptional film, and boasts what are sure to be well-deserved, breakout performances by Granik and Lawrence. This is one of the few films in 2010 that is truly not to be missed.

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