Debra Granik’s second feature film, Winter’s Bone, is the kind of movie that gets progressively better & better as you delve deeper and deeper into it. It is filled with humane, real characterizations of a society that is rooted in evil and people that have lost all hope in life and succumbed to shadiness & drug dealing. There are memorable scenes that linger (the gutting of a squirrel, the taking of a girl, a final -ambiguous- mumbling sentence) & a sense of dread that will turn the most primitive of moviegoers off. It is through and through a product of Independent film and we should be very appreciative of its existence.
Because of that, the film might not get recognized in the best picture category come awards time. As unforgettable as Winter’s Bone might be, it is a simply told and grim story set in a depressing world Academy voters might not relate to. It is atmospheric and layered with an indie movie foundation. The film’s best chances will likely lie on the finely penned screenplay and on its lead performance by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, who delves deeply into her role and creates something memorable and real.
If there is a plot it is sparse and purposely slight @ first. Granik films her subjects in a cinematography layered in blue and in a mountainous background that brings mythic purpose to her story’s very fabrication. What to say of the performances? absolutely spellbinding. Jennifer Lawrence as the 17 year old main character does not over act but instead brings subtlety to her role as a teenage girl desperately looking for her -dead?- father in the wilderness Ozarks of Missouri. John Hawkes as her isolated and troubled uncle & really just the entire cast which does an amazing job conveying a mood that enhances the dread.
I’ve heard people complain about the grimness of the picture and its sheer hopelessness. I’ve heard some complain that not much happens & that the narrative plotting is thin. I’ve also heard some folks say that they were bored out of their minds and did not get the movie’s message. To all these naysayers I say look closer and maybe you will find what you missed the first time around- a film about the root of evil and how matriarchal ties that bind never get broken, no matter what the cost. That is Winter’s Bone & I guarantee you will be talking about it no matter your liking or disliking of it.