With any cinematic endeavor, you yearn to be enthralled from the start, and look for new and engaging reasons to remain invested. When I watched Winter’s Bone, I found exactly that. It is sneaky in the way that it gets under your skin, and that feeling doesn’t go away when the credits roll. That’s when I know I’ve witnessed something unique.
Debra Granik’s gritty 2010 feature is authentic in its portrayal of poverty and desperation. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) isn’t your average seventeen-year-old. As her mother’s mental health progressively declines, and her meth-making father has disappeared, it’s up to her care for her two younger siblings. When an officer shows up saying that her father missed his court date and the house is put up as collateral, she’s forced to search for him to avoid losing everything. As a viewer you’re on this journey with Ree, uncertain of the outcome, but committed all the same.
There are real stakes, and these storytelling elements, adapted from the book of the same name by Daniel Woodrell, translate to a suspenseful nail-biter. The stark Winter’s Bone has a lot of incredible settings, characters, and a well of emotional heft. The characters presented in the Missouri Ozarks are all valuable players, striking and raw. Lawrence doesn’t scare easily and as she ventures into dangerous territory with those who want to let sleeping dogs lie when it comes to her father’s disappearance, the movie really finds its voice.
Jennifer Lawrence is revelatory, and this indie film got her a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Her courage is astounding, and as she walks a dangerous line, she draws out some intimidating characters, including a formidable portrayal from John Hawkes as her uncle.
There’s a sense of realism within the characters on screen that makes Winter’s Bone irrefutably distinct. Granik has an eye for troubled storylines, leaning on both the beauty and heartbreak of human nature, and this is no exception.
Even if you can’t directly relate to the story, you will undoubtedly admire its strength and resonate with the desire to survive. The sheer resiliency of this strong female heroine makes it an imperative feature to behold.
Winter’s Bone is currently available to stream on Netflix.