An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.
The title of this Sundance winner, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, really doesn’t give anything away about the story being told, but it does a great job of capturing a sentiment. A harsh and unforgiving feeling.
A feeling that seems to resonate after watching this movie.
Set in a remote and desolate mountain community, Winter’s Bone tells the story of the Dawly family, all thanklessly relying on the resilience and perseverance of 17 year old matriarch “Ree” (played by Jennifer Lawrence). When the ‘law’ comes to reclaim the land on which they are living, Ree is determined to track down her father in order to keep the plot and their home. The history of the father’s absence is never developed and is essentially irrelevant as the purpose of the girl’s journey is not to find her father, but to save her family.
Lawrence carries the weight of her responsibility and desperation immaculately throughout the film. The genuinely maternal grins of approval contrasted with an adolescent swagger clearly demonstrates the actor’s ability to grasp the complexity and contradictory nature of her character’s world.
Sharing the screen as uncle “Teardrop”, John Hawkes plays a hardened man who watches his niece’s actions from afar and tries to be the voice of reason, although unsuccessfully. A stellar performance by Hawkes as he pinballs between being bitter and violent, to melancholic and nurturing.
The plot itself is uncomplicated but watching the emotional journey of the young Ree is anything but easy. Sprinklings of laughter and some near smiles help lighten the mood when things get too serious, but the general idea is, make sure you know what you’re getting into: this is not a feel-good flick.
The name tells you more than you think.
Winter’s Bone opens in Toronto on June 18.