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Marina Antunes [DVD News 11.04.10] movie review dvd thriller drama

Year: 2010
Director: Debra Granik
Writers: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Daniel Woodrell (novel)
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Ree isn’t your average teenager. At 17, she’s the sole caregiver of her family: a young brother and sister and a mother who is too ill to look after herself never mind her kids. Life is hard but it goes on, one day at a time with each new hurdle jumped as it approaches. Life throws Ree a curve ball when the police come knocking. Her father, a meth cook, has a court date coming up and for bond, he’s put up the house and surrounding property that Ree and her family call home. If he doesn’t show, the bondsman is going to come collecting. Barely able to survive now, Ree can’t see how the family will manage with no place to live so she sets off in search of her missing father.

That’s the premise of Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone which is adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name. Though it reads like a typical drama, Granik has built an intense drama with a fascinating mystery at its centre: where is Jessup Dolly? The missing man, who we never see outside of a few photographs, forever looms in the shadows of this story which is constantly throwing new challenges into the mix. In her attempt to solve the mystery of her father’s whereabouts, Ree runs into a number of challenges, each of which peels back a new layer of the story and develops both the lead character as well as the people that inhabit this backwoods world where blood runs deep and secrets go to the grave with those that keep them.

Tucked in the corners of this story are observations on family, vengeance and even the military but perhaps most interesting is the commentary that Winter’s Bone makes by creating strong female characters who are never sexualized, a rarity in general and particularly in a thriller as brutal as this one. It begins with Ree (Jennifer Lawrence leads the way in a powerful, flawless performance - There is never any doubt that she will do whatever is necessary to keep her family together, even if it means putting her life in danger) who is smart, observant and uncompromising in her search, even in the face of adversity, more than once she’s told to move on and forget finding her father but she persists, but it continues with the other women who pepper this story, women who often speak for the men (some unspoken rule of women dealing with women?). And then there’s Teardrop (John Hawkes in a great role), the initially distant uncle who has his own idea of family and responsibility but who, in the end, steps up to help his niece.

Granik focuses her story on the people but her setting plays a key role in this story, a metaphor for the socially treacherous terrain Ree is traversing and the lonely, hard life she leads. It also sets the mood for the film which plays nicely in the bleak, muted colours and deadness of the surroundings, almost like the calm before the storm, a storm that never quite reaches full force but is always on the brink of unleashing.

Carefully constructed to build suspense, Winter’s Bone is just the kind of film I love: an engaging, slow burning drama that isn’t afraid to play in other genre pools and leaves me thinking about it well after the credits roll.

Winter's Bone (clip 2) from AO on Vimeo.

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Loren (11 years ago) Reply

Great Movie!! I was raised in the Missouri Ozarks area where the film was set and filmed. This is the part of the US that loves Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh (who is from Missouri) and voted for GW Bush twice. I have to say that the film was amazingly "true to life" in every detail. I would also like to say that you don't have to be desperately hungry to hunt and eat squirrels either. It is considered very good food in the hills. I have eaten it many times and it is delicious when cooked correctly.

I have been dismayed reading many of these reviews calling it a "fake" and/or "phony" and contrived film. I do understand that the character of Ree Dolly certainly has many wonderful and admirable qualities that seem to have developed in a vacuum. Ree Dolly needs to be that sort of character for the rest of the film to work and not simply be a documentary of the endless poverty endured in the Ozarks for generation after generation. I grew up EXACTLY in that part of Missouri and Ree's character aside, it is EXACTLY correct in the look, the language and the behaviors there.

I would also like to address the meth epidemic that has raced across huge sections of the rural Midwest America. I was raised in the Ozarks from 1963 until 2009 and I watched the moonshiners lose out as Sunday Blue Laws and Dry County Laws were voted down or abandoned. Then marijuana became THE big cash crop that survived and thrived for many years until "Daddy" Bush's anti-marihuana laws poured in tons of money to local law enforcement and new laws confiscating lands forced the richer growers indoors. It was finally in the mid 1990s when you began to see meth force out ALL the remaining marihuana farmers and moonshiners. Counties began to get in meth dealing Sheriffs and the old games were OVER. In my Ozark County (Morgan) during the late 1990s a deputy sheriff's home mysteriously exploded and then was investigated by the FBI. I watched as the marijuana became hard to find and evil meth took over.

The people of the Ozarks have always been clannish, hostile to outsiders and proudfully ignorant and primitive in their opinions of society and politics. Those traits are nothing new or something that manifested due to meth. But the introduction of meth has struck down many good men and women who might have made the culture a tiny bit more tolerant or hopeful.

But along with the continuing devastation of multi generational poverty and vastly inferior schools there is also a great beauty in the land and the people of the region that you can see in a short movie shot in the Ozarks at;

or my longer version at:

Many an unbelievably gifted musician lived and died in those hills never having recognition from anyone outside of the hills.

I strongly urge everyone to watch this movie because it is VERY
truthful and realistic of how parts of the US survive. It also shows a part of America that is VERY often overlooked because many are (rightfully) ashamed that this sort of 3rd world poverty exits in the US. I personally feel that the Federal US government needs to inject a LOT more funding and OVERSITE of the rural school districts in order to overcome the generations of prideful ignorance that governs the mindset of many born into that rural America culture.


agentorange (11 years ago) Reply

"Ree isn’t your average teenager. At 17, she’s the sole caregiver of her family: a young brother and sister and a mother who is too ill to look after herself never mind her kids."

This set up is very similar to REDLAND isn't it. The setting too. I must track this down.


Eater of Lotus (11 years ago) Reply

"I would also like to address the meth epidemic that has raced across huge sections of the rural Midwest America."


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