Winter's Bone Movie Review
After her drug-cooking dad jumps bail, 17-year-old Ree (Lawrence) is in an impossible situation: she's desperate to get out of town, but the bondsman (Taylor) is seizing her house, and she's has to take care of her nearly catatonic mother (Richards) and younger siblings (Stone and Thompson) who aren't old enough to hunt their own food. So she decides to find her father, calling on her uncle (Hawkes) for help. But her dad's disappearance is tied up in local customs, and by digging around she stirs a hornet's nest.
The filmmakers capture life in the wintry Missouri Ozarks with remarkable skill, never giving in to cliches in the way the community is portrayed. And even the plot unfolds organically, without any cinematic manipulation. Within moments, we feel like we are right in the middle of this situation, and we cling to Ree for dear life, hoping she makes it out of this alive. Most impressively, Granik builds this anxiety even though we're not initially sure what the threat is. Every scene is packed with subtle detail that draws us in deeper.
Lawrence delivers an Oscar-calibre performance that doesn't have a single forced moment, although one climactic scene is so wrenching that we can hardly watch. She gives Ree an understated steeliness that really takes us aback, especially as she walks into increasingly dodgy situations; whether its bravado or desperation is irrelevant when the character is this complex and sympathetic. And the supporting cast members hardly seem like they're acting at all, bristling with a whole range of barely suppressed emotions.
This is a powerful film about a tightly interconnected community in which people understand their place, everyone knows everyone else's business, and help is offered but never requested. Granik's cameras observe this with quiet intensity that's rooted in the characters themselves. It's reminiscent of other independent-woman dramas like Frozen River and Trucker, but this one has more soul than any of them.