Winter’s Bone is an interesting tale of courage and determination that takes place in the wild backcountry of the Ozark Mountains. Filmed on location in Missouri, the film relates the coming of age of Ree, a 17 year-old who learns that her father, caught on a drug charges and not seen in several weeks, had put up the family home as collateral against his bail bond. The sheriff comes by to warn her that if he doesn’t show up for his court hearing in a week, she, her two young siblings and her mentally ill mother will lose the home.

Ree, played by Jennifer Lawrence, knows that the livelihood of the family rests on her shoulders and she sets out to find her father. But she encounters the brutal opposition of everyone from kin to neighbours, all people living in the same dire conditions, folks that say little, know too much, and ain’t keen on keeping with witnesses…

In this thriller, everyone seems physically and mentally ravaged by the marginal economy that seems the only way for some to survive in these wayward parts: Growing marijuana and cooking crystal meth. The characters are as kind and approachable as junkyard dogs, and Ree, for all her young years, is just as tough. Nonetheless she gets a taste of the limits of free speech at the hand of her own family, and it is on the condition that she agree to “know nothing, see nothing, and remember nothing” that she is brought to the spot where she can get the remains of her father, the bones, proof of death that will clear the bond and allow her to keep the property. All’s very wrong, but ends well…

Although the dénouement, the character development and the consistency of the storyline may be a tad implausible to this writer, the casting is shear perfection: John Hawkes is especially believable as the addicted and tyrannical uncle Tear Drop who terrifies Ree but comes back to protect her. Then the details from wardrobe to location, including blackened fingernails, tasseled hair, scars, tattoos and meth induced skin sores on faces and limbs, tattered clothing and that distinct dialect of the Mountain people known as “Hillbillies”, add to the authentic rendering of the hardships of a rough rural community. Visually, the movie, shot with the state-of-the-art RED camera, conveys a methodically somber mood with digitally enhanced hues of blues and greens. 7/10.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, WINTER’S BONE is directed by Debra Granik and adapted for the screen by Granik and Anne Rosellini. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, John Hawkes, as uncle Tear Drop, and a slew of local actors who master the special phrasing. Additional dialogs in dialect are written by Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.

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