A strong film where things are backwards in the backwoods.
- Who's going to like it: fans of fine indie films and mainstream moviegoers looking to acquire an indie taste.
There is a sort of ignorance that comes from people who don’t watch independent films – and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Often times, people won’t or don’t watch them simply because they aren’t Hollywood films. The pacing is usually different, as is the cinematography. Character pieces often times do not have a concise plot – you just follow a person through a scenario. The title “indie film” gets a lot of heat. Undeserved heat. Just because some indie films are like that, it doesn’t mean that all are like that. Winter’s Bone drives that idea home. It is the type of independent film that mainstream moviegoers would enjoy – if they would but watch it.
Ree Dolly is basically the 17-year-old single mother of two. The kids that she is constantly taking care of are not her own, but her younger brother and sister. Her mother is extremely ill, borderline catatonic, and her father is an absentee dad.
Living in a rundown cabin in the Ozark woods, without a dollar to her name, Ree scrounges up whatever meals she can, hunts for squirrels, and does everything for them.
The uncomfortable beginning to the film is made even more heartbreaking when the sheriff visits their property inquiring about their father. You see, her father has jumped bail. Nobody has seen him for weeks. And having signed the house over for bail payment, if he is not found or turned in, the Dolly family will be thrown out of their home.
The despair that comes with the thought of being homeless causes Ree to become even tougher skinned than she has been up to this point. In the search for her father, she confronts family, druggies, strangers – even the most powerful backwoods crime bosses. Ree does not care what happens to her because it can’t be any worse than what will happen is she doesn’t find her father. She is willing to risk everything to keep her family safe in their home.
Winter’s Bone is a great mix of artsy indie films and mainstream hillbilly backwoods flicks. The best of both worlds exist here. While Winter’s Bone starts off like a strong character study, it quickly becomes an enthralling mystery with powerfully fleshed-out characters. None of this would be possible without a talented director (Debra Granik), a great screenplay and strong actors. Youngster Jennifer Lawrence gives an award-worthy performance as Ree Dolly. Lawrence has gone from television sitcom, to this Sundance award-winning film, and will next be seen starring in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class and along side Mel Gibson in Beaver. Expect big things from her in the future. John Hawkes (LOST, Identity), Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl, Domino) and Garret Dillahunt (The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, The Road) also give noteworthy performances.
If you are not an indie aficionado and would like to establish that acquired taste for independent films, then Winter’s Bone is a great starter. It has everything you want in a good movie: great actors playing strong characters, an unforgivable intensity and a well-written story whose ending will never leave you.
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions
(4 out of 5)