Like the title suggests, Winter's Bone makes for a rather frosty trip to the cinema. Set in frigid winter and against the stark forests of Missouri's Ozak region, Debra Granik's (Down to the Bone) sophomore effort is steeped in unapologetic, deeply affecting verisimilitude. In adapting Daniel Woodrell's novel, Granik intriguingly combines this cinema verite with the structural conventions of a film noir. It's a striking mix, which sees poverty-stricken but proud 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to raise her young brother and sister in the face of a catatonic mother and an absent, meth-crook of a father. When the police inform Ree that they'll lose the house if her father doesn’t make his court appearance, she tenaciously sets about 'huntn' for dad.'
Granik underscores Ree's indefatigable hunt with scenes of poignant domesticity. She needs to teach her siblings to survive, and does so with the same blunt stoicism that she brings to her increasingly harrowing search. As Ree, 20-year-old Lawrence is an absolute revelation; her performance easily ranks amongst this year's best. The film itself has already taken home the Grand Jury prize for Best Picture at Sundance, alongside a litany of deserved critical acclaim.
Further adding to this film's appeal is its female take on the film noir. Ree may be as hardboiled as your classic private eye, but she consistently comes up against women who obliquely then brutally stand in her way. "Ain’t you got no men to do this?" one asks her. "No ma’am, I don’t."
And like their resolute leading lady, Granik and Lawrence manage masterfully well without.
Published on Concrete Playground
Click HERE to read my review from the Sydney Film Festival
Australian release date: 11 November 2010