Film Review: Winter’s Bone

18/09/2010

Winter’s Bone is an unremittingly bleak film, yet at the same time it is absorbing for the entire duration.

Seventeen-year-old Ree takes care of her mentally ill mother and two younger siblings in an isolated Ozark Mountain community. When she finds out her father has put up their house has collateral for his bail and is now missing, Ree takes it upon herself to track him down…

Winter’s Bone is a slow-moving, but engrossing film. The strength of the film lies in the performances of the cast, the atmosphere generated, and the unfolding of what is a very simple narrative. Winter’s Bone is a mystery where information is revealed little by little, thus engaging the audience throughout.

The film also depicts the harsh realities of poor communities living in more isolated parts of America. Ree and her family seem to survive day by day, often relying on the charity of neighbours and family. The poverty exhibited in the film is just about as big a contrast as you can get to the glitziness of Hollywood.

Jennifer Lawrence gives a tremendous performance as teenager Ree. It is an understated portrayal that is overwhelmingly convincing. Ree’s struggle is at times difficult to watch, but Lawrence brings a determination to the role that is quite affecting. John Hawkes puts in a good turn as Ree’s reluctant uncle Teardrop; he effectively represents the darkness of the character that occasionally gives way to tenderness for his family.

Debra Granik’s direction is composed, often contrasting the sparseness of the landscape with the claustrophobia of the small homes. The cinematography and art direction have generated a palette almost desaturated of strong colour. Along with the effective use of sound, this creates a memorable but not a comfortable atmosphere.

Winter’s Bone is unlikely to become an instant favourite with most, due to the bleak tone of the film. It is, however, an affecting picture that deserves the critical accolades bestowed upon it.

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