17 year-old Ree Dolly sets out to track down her father, who put their house up for his bail bond and then disappeared. If she fails, Ree and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods. Challenging her outlaw kin's code of silence and risking her life, Ree hacks through the lies, evasions and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to piece together the truth.
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Adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, WINTER'S BONE immediately sparked comparisons to last year's Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker. Both films received limited runtime in theaters. But I must say this is by far the superior movie in just about every aspect imaginable, unless you count overwrought machoism, slanted anti-war sentiments, and explosions as a category. Don't get me wrong, The Hurt Locker was a decent film for what it was. But it won't leave the kind of lasting impression like this story will.
When you hear the word "backwoods", you might get the immediate impression of inbred, buck-toothed hillbillies wearing overalls and drinking moonshine. This story doesn't succumb to exploiting certain exaggerated stereotypes just to grab your attention. But these characters are definitely a little rough around the edges, to say the least.
Filmed in the Ozarks of Missouri, this is a simple but riveting dramatic tale about family, danger, and perseverance. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17-year-old girl forced to grow up way too fast. With her mother desperately ailing and her father somewhere hiding from the law, she struggles to support her younger brother and sister. To make matters worse, a bail bondsman notifies her that her dad put up their home as his bail bond, then skipped out on court. In order to track her father down, Ree is forced to enter a seedy, violent realm of paranoid drug pushers and users. Many of them happen to be distant family members. Family ties or not, none of them are too anxious to help her out. The risks and desperation mount as she inches closer to the truth.
The best part of this film is the character development and the acting. It is so refreshing to see the young cast perform their roles with such controlled precision. Especially Lawrence. She puts many established Hollywood actors to shame here, I can't wait to see more of her work.
WINTER'S BONE is slow paced, and might not appeal to many casual movie goers. But it does have some moments of heightened tension that will leave you holding your breath. It explores a certain drug culture and meager lifestyle that is rarely touched upon in movies. Plus it makes some poignant, thought-provoking points about family devotion and the human spirit.
It also was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. I doubt there will be a better film than this all year. Brilliant filmmaking.