This one hits close to home.
Winter’s Bone opens up a world that some may feel is fictitious but I can confirm first hand that places like this still do exist in this futuristic year of 2011. Not the story itself…that would be messed up. But I can relate to the living conditions and the cliquish quality of rural backwoods communities. I knew areas like this where I grew up.
This mystery drama covers about a one week period in the life of 17 year old Ree Dolly (the engaging Jennifer Lawrence) as she tries to track down her deadbeat daddy who’s wanted by the police and who put their house up for collateral against a bond. If her father doesn’t show up for court in a week’s time, her and her family will be left homeless. Ree is on her own raising her younger brother and sister while caring for her invalid mother so she has no one to turn to except dig into the dank and murky underbelly of this poor rural Ozarks community. She herself is at a crossroads of sorts between potential death and certain homelessness.
The pace is slow and deliberate and perfect for a movie of this nature. The silent looks between characters speak more about how this part of the world lives than the dialogue itself. The people in the community is about as friendly as a cold glass of water in the face. Everyone is slightly off in one way or another. Riddled with drugs, crime and corruption. A place where the community protects secrets from the outside world and anyone wanting to uncover those hidden horrors. And this fear of discovery knits together the people in a strange harmonious tapestry.
Jennifer Lawrence (also starring in the upcoming X-Men: First Class) carries Winter’s Bone with youthful power and fragility. At any moment, you fear for her character’s life as she enters deeper and deeper into the hive to find her father. Ree knows that she could possibly die if she asks the wrong person the wrong questions but she needs to ask them or the alternative would mean doom for her family.
Other notable is John Hawkes as Ree’s uncle, Teardrop. He is her reluctant protector against the thugs trying to stop Ree at every turn. Hawkes shines as the second best portrayal of a drug addict this year (the first is Christian Bale in The Fighter.)
Winter’s Bone at it’s core is a disturbing look at the threatening nature of small town gossip and the kinds of difficult choices that can be left on the plate of a 17 year old when she’s the sole breadwinner. And even though the resolution becomes apparent about half way, the result is no less effective and appropriate. You won’t find many surprises along the way…just troubling images along the route that needs to be taken to get there.
A solid movie from beginning to end. However, I can’t help but think this could be as polarizing as Fargo and No Country For Old Men in it’s taste to people. You’ll either love it or hate it. But I hope you love it. Top 5 movie of the year? No. Top 10? Absolutely.
8 severed hands out of 10