Jim is a bigger fan of back woods noir author Daniel Woodrell but after seeing Winter’s Bone, the exceptionally gritty, atmospheric and unique film based on one of his novels, I may just take second look. Woodrell specializes is grim mysteries in the deep south and this particular story about a tougher than nails Ozark teen forced to look after her sick mom and siblings made its way to the big screen with tremendous dignity with haunting suspense.
What looks at first glance like Independent film award fodder: downtrodden Americans shot against grim but undeniably beautiful landscapes (the cinematography is brilliant) of a country falling apart, is much more than an outsider’s glimpse into a mostly unknown world. While I can not claim to know what the cabins and trailers of the Ozarks look like, the sets, settings and actors here feel genuine and are neither pedantically glorified or demonized. The cast that (like almost anything of value these days) includes actors from Deadwood is superb with Jennifer Lawrence as the heroine, Ree, earning every bit of buzz and praise she’s received.
At heart, Winter’s Bone is a mystery. Ree must find her father, or perhaps the remains of him in order to keep the house he put up for bail on a recent meth arrest. The journey, that climaxes in an act of savage, cold survival, is wrought with tension as she makes her way through the rough, complex order of a dangerous society populated by the stoic, hardened, and vicious.
We were taken with the movie more than we expected. Maybe it’s so effective because Debra Granik is less interested in forcing her opinion of the characters than letting them exist within the simple but gripping plot.