Winter’s Bone (2010)
Jennifer Lawrence in her debut wide release film from 2010 plays an unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacking through dangerous ground as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. Writer/director Debra Granik opens her quietly stunning noir with a shot of a ramshackle little house that immediately sets the place and mood. New Yorker film critic David Denby called Winter’s Bone “one of the great feminist works in film”
- Director: Debra Granik
- Cinematography: Michael McDonough
- Screenplay: Anne Rosellini, Debra Granik
- Editor: Affonso Gonçalves
Seventeen year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is the accidental heroine to a clan of kids. Her Momma is all but comatose and the law is about to take their home out from under them if Ree’s crank-cookin’ Daddy doesn’t show up at court for his hearing. Thus begins Ree’s quest to find her Daddy.
Following the pattern of a classic noir detective tale, Granik’s adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel follows Ree’s journey to find out “the truth”, about what happened to her pop. As she criss-crosses the bleak inbred hills of the Ozarks she encounters all varieties of kinfolk, some of whom would prefer just to shoot her.
Ree Dolly is a classic “wiser beyond her years” heroine, but Granik makes it clear she’s still just a kid, and Lawrence is so natural and firm in her performance you can’t help but cheer for her.
The Winter’s Bone story is told with a first-rate soundtrack of traditional music, stark and beautiful cinematography (courtesy of Michael McDonough), and finely wrought performances. The supporting cast is grizzled and compelling, relying on veteran character actors.
Granik sticks to a real and gritty approach, but she never discredits the poverty. Small acts of kindness and extreme acts of cruelty are shown as equal sides of the same coin. A noirish narrative framework, a mood of dread, and foreshadowing fill the first two acts. We cheer that Ree will find a way out of her predicament, and you need the kids to be be alright…somehow. Granik makes us want, wait and wonder, and Jennifer Lawrence brings anxiety, toughness and tensions alive on-screen.