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Winter's Bone (2010)

A movie directed by Debra Granik

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An Unflinching Drama About a Girl Who Seeks Out Her Missing Father...

  • Nov 5, 2010
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 “Winter’s Bone” is one such movie. This nourish drama has won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a young 17 year old tasked with taking care of her sick mother and her two other siblings when her drug-dealing father, Jessup disappears. As if things weren’t challenging enough, a bail bondsman shows up to inform Ree that her father is now considered a “runner” since he missed his court date; their property would be considered in default to his bail bonds unless she produces him alive or presents proof of his death. Despite her incredible responsibilities, Ree goes out to find her father dead or alive; she slowly uncovers the secret behind his disappearance, but what she finds may put her own life at risk…

                Ashlee Thompson as Ashlee, Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly and Isaiah Stone as Sonny in "Winter's Bone."

               Lauren Sweetser as Gail in "Winter's Bone."

“Winter’s Bone” has a very simple premise. The taint of the past and how the people can cross a point beyond recovery; that from then on, their lives may become changed forever. The Dolly family is a clan known because of the history of their father; the town knows this secret and even the authorities know of this. Everyone knew of the dealings in this small isolated community, yet, one doesn’t exactly have a wish to talk about it. In this town, it seems like everyone minds their own business and such activity is a part of life. Gossip and backyard talk is ‘talk’ and no one seems to care. Poverty is a way of life in this parts, so no one exactly cares what the other does for a living (well, maybe except for the big boss) they have their own code of silence and perhaps their own warped sense of honor. The town itself is given ‘character’ through the use of its dialogue and how the script allows the viewer to read between the lines.

John Hawkes as Teardrop in "Winter's Bone."  Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in "Winter's Bone."

This film is a noirish family drama and keeps its focus on Ree’s character which is superbly acted by Lawrence. Ree is a pillar of strength and it always gets me when a young girl finds more strength than she is expected to. Ree acts like an adult and you see that she is merely doing what she needs to do; it was nice for the direction to show some fear within her, and yet she tries hard not to show it in the face of danger. Lawrence keeps her acting range simple; Ree is after all a teen trying to play the part of a big sister and guardian, she tries her best not to show her emotion and yet she is near the breaking point. Some characters do border on cliché but they are easily made up for by the two lead characters.

                Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly and John Hawkes as Teardrop in "Winter's Bone."

“Teardrop” (played by John Hawkes) proves to be the more compelling and interesting character between the two. He is Jessup’s uncle and a person with a very shady past who has no doubt done a great deal of despicable deeds based off bad relationships and decisions. This is shown by the direction when folks seem to show him some respect and doubtless they fear him in some ways. Yet, for whatever reason, he tries to avoid getting involved and yet, he finds the need to steer Ree in the right direction and even bails her out of a dangerous situation. Hawkes doesn’t give any room for the viewer to question his motives; he feels guilt over his brother’s disappearance, but yet, he accepts the truth of the matter. The actor is amazing in his portrayal of a torn man with a lot of anger and guilt; he is haunted by these events and his eyes just exude a potential explosion once left unchecked.

The film has a final act that may not exactly yield solid answers, but it is part of its charm. I liked the manner with which the movie "ends" that almost "ends" with a question as to what “Teardrop“ meant. “Winter’s Bone” is a film that is depressing, but in the end the taint that was a disadvantage proved to be the source of courage for young Ree. I really liked the film but I am not certain if it is one I can recommend to be watched again and again, but it needs to be seen at least once or twice. The film is just sad, dreary and filled with despair for almost its entirety. Its cinematography felt gloomy with hardly any bright imagery; but these are the things that render such films brilliant.

Highly Recommended! [4+ Out of 5 Stars]

An Unflinching Drama About a Girl Who Seeks Out Her Missing Deadbeat Father... An Unflinching Drama About a Girl Who Seeks Out Her Missing Deadbeat Father...

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December 20, 2010
Good movie! I caught this one back in the summer at the theater. I was impressed. Chris told me to go see it and this was probably as good as anything else you could've found playing at that time. Great review!!
December 13, 2010
I don't know how I missed this review; this one sounds engrossing and one I'd like to see. Great review as always Woo!
December 13, 2010
Thanks, Brenda! It will be part of my upcoming "best of 2010" list for sure.
December 13, 2010
I spotlighted the movie in my newsletter along with a couple holiday ones I read. I really need to see this one!
December 13, 2010
I know I just saw it....wonderful! Oh, I recommended a couple of movies me and Alex just loved!
November 12, 2010
I have this sitting in my room ready to be watched, thanks for the review WP.
November 12, 2010
enjoy, Alex. Our old ammie group (like Chris) enjoyed this movie quite a bit also.
November 09, 2010
Sounds like a good movie, depressing but good. Stellar review, William!
November 09, 2010
Thanks, Adri. I do see depressing movies to have the most potential to be the most brilliant and ambitious. I guess I liked the realism behind all of it.
November 09, 2010
Nods. I agree with you there.
November 07, 2010
meeting my friend next week for a girls week away, we love movies and this will be on our list, thanks for a very nice review
November 09, 2010
That's great to know. Make sure you have something more light-hearted after watching this movie :)
November 06, 2010
I read some of the early buzz on this and have been wanting to see it. Lately there have been some really good indies out there.
November 06, 2010
I'll be out tomorrow to try and catch CONVICTION; that movie with Hilary Swank based on a true story. This woman went to law school to re-open the case of her convicted brother.
November 16, 2010
I liked it! Good and dark and depressing. : )
November 16, 2010
cool. review?
November 17, 2010
Probably not. I did a quick tip though. I have a review in the works, but it'll be a while before it's ready.
November 06, 2010
Depressing and sad indeed... I know what you mean about watching it once but it's not for me at this time of the year :-) We need more cheering up in life! Incidentally, many movies with the word "Bone" in it are not quite for me ;-)
November 09, 2010
LOL! I can see that. I needed some cheering up which is why I went to see an animated comedy after ;)
November 05, 2010
A movie I haven't even heard of but if it was good enough for you to give it 4 I definitely have to see it. Oh yea man I finally took up a recommendation from you a while back, I finally saw that film "The Bow" took me a few watches but I liked it. It was a lil slow but I still liked it better than "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring".
November 09, 2010
Glad you liked THE BOW. Kim's films are usually not for everyone. Now as for this movie, I think you may enjoy this since you do have an appreciation for dark depressing movies.
More Winter's Bone (2010 movie) reviews
review by . February 08, 2011
This movie was recommended by a friend of mine.  She told me, not long after watching this movie that I needed to see it so she could have my take on it.  I must confess it took me a while to finally see it.  Notwithstanding, I finally rented the movie and this is review is an ode to her…       The plot of this film is rather simple, yet compelling, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl who lives with her younger brother and sister and her catatonic …
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 Missouri...it 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 . June 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Bare Bones
WINTER’S BONE 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 …
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 …
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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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"The Bare Bones"
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