ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 17 : Winter’s Bone

Year: 2010

Runtime: 100 Minutes

Director: Debra Granik

Writer: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee, Tate Taylor

By Bee Garner

Based on the book by Daniel Woodrell, “Winter’s Bone” is a truly engrossing and remarkable film by Debra Granik who is such an underrated director and it’s wonderful to see two of her films make our ITO Top 50 countdown. Adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini, “Winter’s Bone” takes place in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, where teenage Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to provide for her household: her mother has become catatonic with depression and her younger brother and sister (Ashlee Thompson and Isaiah Stone) need looking after.

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Ree is considering joining the US army, on account of the $40,000 cash bonus promised by the recruitment posters. Her father Jessup is absent, and thought to be engaged in the criminal manufacture of crystal meth. When the local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) shows up outside Ree’s ramshackle property, he does so the same way any outsider pays an unannounced visit in these parts: very nervously and with caution. Outsiders are not welcome. The sheriff informs Ree, that her father has posted the family home as bail. If he doesn’t show up for next week’s court date, they will be required to leave. So, to keep a roof over everyone’s head, she must find her father. Easier said then done.

What She Said:

“A tough tale of survival in a harsh environment, this adaptation echoes through the emotional chill and connects with us.”

Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile

Ree decided to track down her her meth-addicted uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and continues to track down more distant kin, she eventually tries to talk to the local crime boss, Thump Milton. Milton refuses to see her. The more Ree pushes for answers about her father, the bigger the backlash she faces.

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Jennifer Lawrence’s raw performance is memorizing to watch. She brings such authenticity to this role, and she comes across as wise beyond her years. It’s hard to believe that she was only 19 years old when she was shooting the film. And, it’s not hard to see why this film put her on the map as she managed to show all of Hollywood what she was capable of as an actress. The character of Ree is a young woman who has been forced to grow up quickly and to adjust to this harsh landscape, and we see this in Lawrence’s expression, stren and determined. Ree drives the plot forward, and it’s so rare that we see a female character being the centre of such a narrative, especially a young female character.

What She Said:

“Call me a sucker for punishment but I find myself drawn to these harrowing tales, and Winter’s Bone is certainly one of those.”

Kate Rodger, Newshub (NZ)

The setting of the Ozark mountains is an interesting decision by Granik, because it remains a mystery of some sorts to the ordinary cinema goer especially those from outside the USA. The Ozarks is a region in the U.S. states of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The mountains cover a significant portion of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, extending from Interstate 40 in Arkansas to the suburbs of St. Louis. Granik manages to bring the camera along with the help of cinematograoher Michael McDonough, into this tight-knit community, which is inaccessible to many. She creates the impression that everyone knows everyone and more importantly knows their business. This is one big dysfunctional family, if you can use the term ‘family’ to describe these people.

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Garnik manages to capture the poverty-stricken world of the Ozark mountains in a realistic depiction. As Lawrence stated in an interview, everything was real, and there wasn’t a set. According to an article at Medium.com by Joy Ellsworth “Poverty here is nearly 10% above the Missouri average, it far exceeds Jackson County’s poverty rate, and it matches St. Louis City’s poverty rate — which is considered by many to be the worst in the state.”

What She Said:

“The Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou? was the last film to make such delirious use of mountain music. The rest of the world can start drooling over Lawrence. I’m gonna git me a copy of that soundtrack.”

Charlotte O’Sullivan, London Evening Standard

Granik used local musicians not just in a key scene of the film, but also to help complete the soundtrack, which help to reinforce the film in its setting and we become fully absorb into this world through the use of music and sound. “Winter’s Bone” is also remarkable because of its the use of colours: the dish-water greys, muddy browns, the off colour greens and dirty blues. This is a world where no hope can exist, brightness and vibrance can not grow here.

The use of a muted colour pallet helps to reinforce the weariness of this place, where the land and the people have lost all motivation. Ree along with her siblings are a by-product of their dysfunctional household but their situation is made worse, because of the location they live in. “Winter’s Bone” shows us that the real casualties of this location is the younger generation who are devoid of opportunities just like the land is devoid of colour.

The Extra Bits:

Where to watch:

Amazon: Rent & Buy

Google Play: Rent & Buy

iTunes: Rent & Buy

 

 

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