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Winter's Bone (2010)

A movie directed by Debra Granik

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The Bare Bones

  • Jun 23, 2010
Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes

Ree Dolly: Never ask for ought to be offered.

WINTER’S BONE tells you immediately what tone to expect for the duration of your journey.  Two young children bounce up and down on a trampoline that sits outside a dilapidated wood cottage that is surrounded by discarded playthings and car parts.  A folk waltz about Missouri plays over the soundtrack and, as a teenage girl takes down the laundry and plays with the kids she so clearly looks after, it seems to me that Missouri might as well be misery.  These are the Ozark Mountains. This is an America that is not often seen in film – an America that has nothing, trusts no one and doesn’t stand a chance.  This is the America that America would rather forget.
The girl is Ree Dolly (relative unknown and inevitable awards season breakout, Jennifer Lawrence).  She is sixteen years old and she cannot join the army like she wants because she must take care of her two younger siblings and her mentally unstable mother.  At an age when the concept of responsibility is only freshly coming into existence for most, Ree must embody it so that her family doesn’t fall apart.  And as if chopping the firewood, preparing dinner and making sure the children know both their math lessons and firearm safety weren’t enough for her to shoulder, she must now also find her estranged father.  His latest battle with the law over his career as a meth manufacturer has put her home in jeopardy.  Her father owns the home and he needed something to put up for bail so if he misses his court date, her family loses everything they have. Their only hope is this young girl.

Lawrence fought hard for this role.  It was thought that she was too pretty for the part and, while she is definitely a pretty girl, her performance is about as raw and ugly as they come.  Each character she meets greets her with trepidation and aggression and yet each of these people is somehow related to her in some distant fashion.  They know her plight and you can see that most yearn to help but that it always stops there because no one dares get involved out of fear for their own person.  Lawrence is fearless in the face of these challenges.  She relentlessly hunts down her father to secure her family’s basic need for shelter.  This is strife; this is suffering.  This is survival in the truest sense of the word.

An American flag still hangs outside the Dolly home.  It does not fly proudly but rather it just droops, defeated and tired.  WINTER’S BONE, directed with grace and respect by Debra Granik, and based on a brilliantly bare screenplay by Granik and Anne Rosellini, is a visceral experience that makes its points frankly and strongly.  It speaks sharply to the dated gender roles, commonplace drug usage and extreme poverty that flood these parts without anyone knowing or caring and it does so in a soft voice that allows the audience to see how dire it is with their own eyes.  Even this America will not go down without a fight.

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December 13, 2010
Very nice review on a movie I have not heard of and now need to see!
December 13, 2010
Thank you. You'll be hearing about this movie a lot in the weeks to come. It's already doing very well in early awards season and Top 10 lists.
December 13, 2010
I was impressed enough with all the reviews that I spotlighted yours and the others in the Community newsletter. This sounds like a wonderful film and I don't want to miss it.
July 13, 2010
I have just reviewed this film as well. I did not comment about the "America" depicted in this film, but intended to. You point to an interesting aspect of the film and your being a non-American is not an issue. I was going to point out that some people may see this film as stereo-typical...and might even claim to be offended. If you are offended by this film, then it is probably not about you. But I have met the characters in this film, and yes, they do exist. So if anyone is going to be offended...get over it and enjoy the film.
July 14, 2010
Thanks for the reassurance. I was chatting with one of the PR people at Maple Pictures, who is distributing this film in Canada, and she raised an interesting point about the potential of the film being offensive. The characters in the film and the way the actors portray them is pretty spot on from what I understand but the slightest shift in performance could have made them really cliched and almost farcical. It is just another great compliment to this film and all involved that they walked that line so finely.
July 01, 2010
I truly hadn't heard of this and might need to find out more information and check it out. Nice review! Welcome. Kim
July 02, 2010
Thanks, Kim. It it is definitely a smaller title, playing on under 50 screens in all of North America but find it if you can as it continues to expand.
June 24, 2010
"This is an America that is not often seen in film – an America that has nothing, trusts no one and doesn't stand a chance. This is the America that America would rather forget." man, that is powerful! That really sold the movie for me. awesome.
June 25, 2010
Thanks, man. As a non-American, sometimes I worry that commentary about America can come across as offensive. This is definitely worth seeing.
More Winter's Bone (2010 movie) reviews
review by . November 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An Unflinching Drama About a Girl Who Seeks Out Her Missing Deadbeat Father...
I am not exactly sure how I am going to begin a review on director Deborah Granik’s “Winter’s Bone”. The film is so undeniably simple at first impression, doubtless those folks who have seen a good number of genre films and independent movies have come across movies with strong similarities. Yet, I find this film quite compelling and effective with how it develops its story. Depressing films have the strong potential to be brilliant no matter how simple its premise is; and …
review by . January 01, 2011
A few years ago, I read Daniel Woodrell's WINTER'S BONE and found much to admire. Set in the most destitute portions of our nation, the Ozark country of southern told the story of young Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl and her desperate efforts to find her missing father and bring him to court before his bail is revoked. Because the bail her dad put up was the deed to the Dolly house and land. This would have left Ree and her two young siblings and her mentally ill mother homeless.    &nbs …
review by . August 03, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Ree has enough to deal with, even before she finds out her house is due to be taken away. She's just seventeen, and stuck running the household, with two younger siblings to feed and a catatonic mother to care for. She does a good job, given meager resources - but her father's been away a long time, out on bail for cooking crystal meth, and he put up the house and the land as collateral. The only thing for it is to find him, and nobody wants to help, and she comes to see that knowing can …
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
"Winter's Bone," adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, is a stark, raw, and gritty masterpiece of storytelling, a thoroughly absorbing detective story that goes above and beyond the reliable conventions of mystery solving. It's a quiet, harsh, and unflinching societal drama set deep within the Ozarks, a world of cold forest lands, small houses that look slopped together from spare parts, cars perpetually hoisted on cinderblocks, and distrustful mountainfolk who all seem to …
review by . December 07, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Engrossing and scary
Deep in the backwoods of Missouri, 17-year old Ree Dolly has a hard life; she's raising her siblings, caring for her mentally-ill mother, and running the house all by herself. Her father, a meth cooker, has jumped bail and the family will lose their home if he can't be brought in to the law so Ree must go to all of her kinfolk for help, even though she knows their code of silence is enforced by beatings - and worse.      This low-budget film is excellent, reminiscent …
Quick Tip by . November 16, 2010
Talk about dreary! Basically what we have here is a brilliantly acted, well-directed film with an insightful screenplay. The story, which takes place in a sort of white trash paradise, is full of quiet moments of reflection and desperation. If you want a feel good film, look elsewhere. This one is for the Gloom Patrol. I liked it.
review by . December 31, 2010
Ree is a 17-year-old girl who lives with her mother and two younger siblings in Missouri hillbilly country. For some reason -- if it was explained, I missed it -- her mother is almost comatose so Ree is in charge of cooking and cleaning and caring for her 12-year-old brother, Sonny, and her 6-year-old sister, Ashlee. Ree doesn't go to school -- I suppose it's possible that she's already graduated -- and she'd like to join the military, but her family obligations make this impossible.   …
Quick Tip by . August 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Winter's Bone might be the best movie I've seen this year, or even last year. There's not a false note in acting, directing, design, photography - just not a false note, period. It's America as the third world - lest we forget every Shining City on the Hill has it's shanty towns - but it doesn't romanticize the hard-scrabble lives these characters live. It's also America as the Dark Ages with warlords, forest families, and mayhem. And, it's the back country mafia hard at work cooking and selling …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #8
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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Family loyalty and self-reliance take on whole new meanings in this dark story of one family's desperate struggle to survive in the Ozark woods of southern Missouri. Day-to-day life is tough in the economically depressed, unforgiving harsh rural landscape that's home to the extended Dolly clan, but it's made much tougher thanks to their history of cooking crank and deep involvement in the local drug culture. For Jessup Dolly and the other men of the family, looking out for oneself has become the first priority. Seventeen-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has been caring for her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings while her father runs from the law. Ree has been managing OK, but when the sheriff shows up with news that her father has put the house up as bond collateral and is unlikely to show for his court date, things get desperate. Ree is well aware of the family code of silence, but desperation forces her to confront her relatives in search of her father, regardless of the personal consequences. One by one, Ree's relatives refuse to help, protecting themselves even at the cost of one of their own. This is a dark, often violent film that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the manic drug culture permeating some rural areas of the South. It is intense, emotional, and extremely effective: it is at times simultaneously uncomfortable to watch and paradoxically riveting. Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey deliver phenomenally ...
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Director: Debra Granik
Genre: Drama
Release Date: June 11, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: October 26, 2010
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate
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Best Picture Nominees 2011


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