Susan Granger’s review of “Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions)
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The
poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must
start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Recipient of the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance, this dark, rural noir revolves around a plucky, courageous 17 year-old named Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) who dropped out of high school to raise her two younger brother and sister in the Southwestern Missouri Ozarks. Her silent, obviously brain-traumatized mother is near catatonic while her drug-dealing father, who ran a small-time crystal methamphetamine lab, has been arrested and jumped bail, leaving the family shack as security, meaning if Ree doesn’t find her pa or prove that he’s dead within a week, the property will be seized, leaving whole family homeless.
“I will find him,” she tells the sheriff who informs her of this dilemma.
Embarking on a mythic journey through the bleak, barren hills, making her way from home-to-home, asking but never begging for aid from her equally alienated and impoverished kinfolk/neighbors, she shunned and warned off for violating the accepted code of silence, receiving a brutal beating for her indomitable determination and tenacity. Menace hangs heavy in the chilled air as she struggles to survive, even after enlisting the reluctant help of her treacherous Uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes on TV’s Deadwood”).
Adapting Daniel Woodrell’s novel, director/co-writer Debra Granik (“Down to the Bone”) and Anne Rosellini, spent two years delving into the culture of the mountain people. Like “Frozen River,” the perceptive authenticity rings true despite the low budget. Dickon Hinchliffe’s sinister score helps, as does casting non-pro locals. After a memorable turn in Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain” (2008), Jennifer Lawrence never overplays the pathos, delivering what may be this young actress’s breakthrough performance.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Winter’s Bone” is a serious, sensitive, stirring 9, revealing a gritty, cruelly uncompromising world within the confines our of our own country.