2010 // USA // Debra Granik // June 28, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac)
B+ - The chilly Ozark landscape of Winter's Bone is a skuzzy nightmare version of backwoods Middle America, where every family is linked through tangled blood relations and everyone cooks crystal meth. This city boy can't attest to the authenticity of the rural Missouri portrayed in Debra Granik's film, but the tone of her direction is such that realism takes a back seat to the mythic resonance of seventeen-year-old Ree's (Jennifer Lawrence) journey. The film's depiction of Ree's materially urgent yet emotionally ambivalent search for her bail-bond-skipping father owes much to noir conventions and the chthonic forays of Greek legend. In this tale, however, the Hero wanders in despairing circles, and her dragons are an empty fridge, a corrupt sheriff, and rotten-toothed relations who value secrecy more than kinship. Lawrence shines, and the estimable John Hawkes' turn as Ree's reckless uncle provides jolts of wiry menace and righteous wrath. The script is both frank and admirably subtle, and Granick's bracingly confident hand relies on expressive touches that lend this regional melodrama the feel of real cinema. Certainly, the ending is garish and absurdly tidy, but there is also unease there, as well as a quiet lamentation for a fallen world.