Winter’s Bone (2010)
Dir: Debra Granik
They say you can’t pick your family… oh how I bet Ree wishes you could!
This is a really great example of an independent film, one thats storyline isn’t going to appeal to a wide audience and sell out multiplexes, but it is so excellent that it made its money back more than 5 times over.
‘Winter’s Bone’ stars the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence as a 17-year-old girl called Ree, living in the rural U.S. who is left looking after her mentally ill mother and two younger siblings while her father is absent as he’s wanted by the authorities for meth production. He’s no ‘Breaking Bad’ style cooker though, they live in a very rural and somewhat deprived area, and the family are left living on very little means. Ree is informed that her father put their home up as a bond for his court appearance, and that if he doesn’t show then they’ll lose it, but he’s nowhere to be found and the police have failed to locate him. Ree then goes round all the relatives looking for someone who knows where he is, and more importantly someone who is willing to tell her.
People think ‘The Simpsons’ are a troubled and dysfunctional family, they have nothing on the family shown here. There are many references to people having the same blood, and it’s not always easy to follow exactly what relation they are, but everyone she visits is some sort of family, yet holding complex loyalties and honour that means they won’t talk. Incidentally, when people do talk it’s using a lot of regional slang which is nicely woven into the dialogue in a very realistic and natural sounding way, also in the right amount so it’s still understandable and can be followed for those unfamiliar with the terms.
Jennifer Lawrence gained a best actress nomination at the Academy Awards for this, and though I’m a big fan of her anyway, there’s no doubt she deserved it. In a similar manner to Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’, Lawrence’s beauty is being massively downplayed, she looks like she’s not wearing any make up, in unflattering clothes, and at one point is roughed up to quite a degree so you can hardly recognise her as the same woman who turned up to see if she won the Oscar she was nominated for, looking like this:
Anyhoo, I digress…
There are other great performances apart from just the lead. John Hawkes was also given a nomination for his supporting role as Ree’s paternal uncle, who we are instantly made to dislike hugely, but then changes his behaviour just enough to warm to him by the end. Garret Dillahunt, mostly known for small TV roles, is also perfectly suited as ‘the law’, a local cop who turns up a couple of times. I was also very impressed by the portrayal of an army recruitment officer, who you normally expect to be somewhat jingoistic and forceful in meeting their quota of signing young people into the forces, yet n this case is written in a sensitive and balanced way, and advises Ree very tactfully and honestly when she sees signing up for the army as a solution to her family’s financial woes.
The film is very bleak, both in tone and visually. As the name might suggest, it is sent in winter, and genuinely looks cold, with the trees bare and the landscape decidedly stark with the cold and washed out hues of the season. However, there’s some warmth to be found in the way Ree is with her siblings, adopting the mothering role, which Jennifer Lawrence depicts flawlessly and with such feeling that it makes an otherwise bleak and cold film ultimately heartwarming.
Click the poster above for the trailer.