Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Shelley Waggener
Director: Debra Granik
Writer(s): Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Daniel Woodrell (novel)
Cinematography: Michael McDonough
Original Score: Sickon Hinchcliffe
Running Time: 100 Mins.
Some films are so gritty, so harsh, you can’t help but get embroiled in the story, not so much because it is a compelling story but rather we are empathizing with the character’s plight, sucked into the world they inhabit, not that you’d want to live there but their tale is deeply gripping, involving and intimate. Winter’s Bone is undoubtedly one of “those” films, each frame smeared with authenticity and shot by a director with a keen eye for both cinematic and realistic visuals, Granik, not a well-known director shoots like the slightly shabbier sister of the Coen’s with winters bone calling to mind the slow burn intensity of No Country For Old Men though it owes a much larger debt to the likes of Deliverance and in particular The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Ree is a 17-year-old, yearning to join the army but burdened with caring for her young brother and sister owing to her mother’s comatose state and, much more pressing to the plot, the disappearance of their father however more important than finding him to act as a father figure is the need for him to turn up to a court date otherwise the families land and livelihood will be taken by bail bondsmen, cue Ree’s search for her father, a search which uncover’s secrets the Ozark community in which she resides to wish to keep hidden. A plight which see’s Ree spiral closer to something much more sinister than she expected…
This is a plot which in work-man-like hands could have produced a straight-forward thriller, one which may have pushed some buttons but not given the facets that mark Winter’s Bone out as something special, of course it helps to have an accomplished cast and Jennifer Lawrence in convincing as the determined and ultimately good mother figure to her brother and sister, not afraid to push buttons and anger all the wrong people, not for the truth about what happened to her father but simply for proof of his whereabouts to save her family home. It is the determination by Ree that keeps you on a knife’s edge for the film duration, pushing closer to a denouement that suggests we are heading for horror film territory in the most “real” sense.
This reality is wrought two-fold, firstly from the cast of look like far from film-stars, in fact it is as if a documentary film maker (albeit a very skilled and artistic one) was at work, creeping in and out of these people’s lives, the second and key point is the choice to shoot in real locations around the Ozark mountains, this is where the grime of fingerprints are to be found on every frame. Not since the original Texas Chainsaw film has a film looked this authentic yet still retain its (great) filmic qualities. Something which should be held as a benchmark in modern film-making, though if there were more films like this the difficulty is the dulling of those that are marked out as unique, and in that I would implore everyone to watch Winter’s Bone.
Winter’s Bone will pull you in and not let go until long after the credits roll, authentic and gripping you will share Ree’s (Jennifer Lawrence) plight until the bitter end.