Archive for September 21st, 2010

Winter’s Bone

Seventeen year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has a pretty crappy existence, her farther often goes missing to practice his chosen profession, to “cook” methamphetamine. Her mother is of little use and is only there in body not mind, Ree has taken on the responsibility to look after her mother as well as her younger brother and sister. As bad as her impoverished life is, it is her life and she is hanging onto it with every inch of her not inconsiderable will, she clearly loves her siblings and makes the most of what she has in life. When the local sheriff informs her that her absent farther has skipped bail after putting the family home up as collateral it becomes clear that her family problems run much deeper than a lack of money and parental support. Determined to succeed where the sheriff has failed Ree sets out to find her farther and save the family home. She soon comes up against a code of silence amongst the local criminal network and to make matters worse she is related to most of them!

Ree has a tenacity and a sense of pride that won’t let her give up, it is an emotional and challenging part that has helped the movie create a real star. At just twenty years old Jennifer Lawrence already has numerous movie and TV credits but nothing that compares to this leading role. It really is a leading role, not only is she the main focus of the narrative, but she is also driving the narrative making the movie what it is. With anything less than perfect casting in this part the movie would have failed and been mediocre at best, as it stands it is one of the best movies of the year. As one who often disagrees with the Academy I won’t predict the potential Oscar nominations but have to say Jennifer Lawrence certainly deserves a nomination if not the statuette. Next year she will join the mainstream when she takes on the role of Mystique in X-Men: First Class, hopefully as she develops into a movie star she also becomes a great actress.

Set in the The Ozarks in the south of Missouri somewhere near the border with Arkansas, Cinematographer Michael McDonough finds a strange beauty in the dark and hostile landscapes that seem to lack any colour or warmth. We never see the sun, it would be easy to believe that this place exists in a perpetual state of winter never seeing the springtime sun. The characters who inhabit the move are a perfect reflection of this bleak and hostile landscape.  The setting is so imposing with a sense of impending menace that the movie often feels like it should descend into a Deliverance style backwoods horror. The restraint that always hold back from this is to the credit of the director who has created an ambiance that is as important to the movie as the plot.  The story is simple but believable and always compelling, based on a 2006 “country noir” novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell (the author of Woe to Live On that was made into the hugely underrated movie, Ride with the Devil 1999). Directed by Debra Granik who also wrote the screenplay, the movie has already won the Grand Jury Prize and the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, I’m sure there are bigger awards to come.

Perfectly paced and directed it isn’t a movie that you will want to watch frequently but it is certainly a rewarding experience not just for the great central performance. This is a taught and gritty thriller disguised as a family drama.


After waiting seven months for my first five star movie (since introducing star ratings to my blog in January) I can happily report that I am awarding five stars (out of five) for the third time in as many months.

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