Review by Jack Foley
SPECIAL FEATURES: The Making of Winter’s Bone featurette; Deleted scenes; Alternative opening; Theatrical trailer; Music Video ‘Hardscrabble Elegy’ composed and performed by Dickon Hinchliffe.
DEBRA Granik’s raw, powerful Winter’s Bone has deservedly emerged as one of the best reviewed films of the year thanks in no small part to a mesmerising lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence.
Set among the woods of Missouri’s harsh Ozark Mountains and adapted from the 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrall, the film is a bleak, uncompromising affair that keeps you gripped from start to finish.
The story focuses on 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Lawrence), a plucky teenager who is struggling to look after her younger brother and sister while her mum struggles with depression.
Her predicament is instantly made worse, however, by a visiting local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt), who informs her that unless her absentee father, Jessup, attends his approaching court date, the family home will be repossessed.
Ree subsequently resolves to find her dad and begins a journey through her community that is frought with peril and dark secrets.
Granik’s film may wear its indie sensibilities on its sleeve, but this only adds to the grim authenticity of her depiction of the Ozark community. The film has an eerie sense of foreboding throughout, as distantly related family members close ranks and threaten Ree’s well-being, despite looking on sympathetically at her overall plight.
The questions surrounding Jessup’s fate may be hidden until the end, but there’s a sense of doom and despair from the moment Ree begins her journey… careful not to place herself in too much jeopardy, yet feisty enough to get things done.
Lawrence portrays this determination with consummate ease – neatly balancing intimate moments between herself and her siblings with the anger and fear of her worsening situation. It’s a master-class in acting that fully deserves the Oscar buzz currently surrounding her performance.
But there’s strong support, too, from John Hawkes, in particular, as a volatile uncle with violent tendencies who becomes an unlikely ally, as well as Sheryl Lee, Dillahunt and Lauren Sweetser as the various people Ree encounters along the way.
Granik’s direction, while slow-burning and self-consciously sparse, also maintains a simmering tension that adds to the depressing feel of the story… evoking comparisons with the style of John Hillcoat’s The Road and The Proposition in her use of landscape as a character.
Hence, while Winter’s Bone may leave you chilled and feeling somewhat downbeat, it’s a journey that’s never less than gripping, and which is guaranteed to stay with you for some time after the closing reel as all good movies should.
Expect it to feature prominently come the approaching awards season.
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 31, 2011