Winter’s Bone (2010)

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When you see a movie like Winter’s Bone the first thing you want to do is spread the word to others about it. It hasn’t become one of my instant favourites and it won’t be one to easily recommend to everyone but it’s one of those films that you let wash over you and one of those movies that simply oozes quality from beginning to end.

“Quiet strength” is the key phrase here, and it sums up both the movie and its female lead. This is no movie of outbursts and shocking violence, this is a movie where you see things coming and end up realising how inevitable many of the moments are, just as the main characters do.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling to look after her younger brother and sister as well as her fragile mother, receiving no help from the missing father who is often in trouble with the law thanks to his particular drug-cooking skills. Having been caught once again, the father has put the homestead up to secure his bail bond and then disappeared. If he doesn’t reappear then all is lost for Ree and, with that in mind, she sets out to find out just where he is, alive or dead. But locals aren’t pleased by Ree’s questions because they believe in the saying that “talk leads to witnesses” and the last thing they ever want is witnesses.

With a pace that’s sedate but never dull, a cast of lesser-known actors putting in fantastic performances and the quirkiness and colour of the cast and setting, Winter’s Bone reminded me of a Coen Brothers movie and that’s no bad thing. It may seem like a lazy comparison but it’s a true one and I am sure that other cinema lovers will feel the same way.

Jennifer Lawrence is superb in the central role, perfectly embodying that quiet strength and tenacity that the character has, while she’s supported by an able cast (Shelley Waggener, Garet Dillahunt and others mix in with a number of first-timers) and matched in every way by John Hawkes, who excels in the role of “Teardrop”, a role that may well be the best of his career.

The direction by Debra Granik, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Anne Rosellini based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, is assured and takes time to show the isolation of Ree’s surroundings and how the locale shapes the inhabitants within.

It is, though I’m in the minority here, a little TOO slow for it’s own good at times but manages to mostly walk a fine line between unhurried and sleep-inducing. Solid fare full of solid talent.

DIRECTOR: DEBRA GRANIK
STARS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, JOHN HAWKES, SHELLEY WAGGENER, GARET DILLAHUNT
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

2 Comments
  1. Chris Knipp says

    Good review. It has gradually built a fine reputation. I knew it was good and unique when I first saw it at the SFIFF last year (San Francisco). John Hawkes is a well known character actor. Jennifer Lawrence should be getting good roles now. I reviewed it. http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1498. See if you can catch Granik’s first film, ‘Down to the Bone.’ The style is similar but the setting and topic quite different.

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    He’s been doing the rounds a while but I first became a fan of John Hawkes during his jittery turn in From Dusk Till Dawn. He’s never put in a bad performance IMO. Lawrence is now in X-Men: First Class so it will be interesting to see her career path and choices besides that one. I’ll keep an eye out for Down To The Bone as I also liked your review there, thanks.

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