Movie review: Deepest, darkest Ozarks come alive in harrowing ‘Winter’s Bone’
There is true grit in the stoical countenance of Ree Dolly, the dirt-poor, 17-year-old heroine of “Winter’s Bone,” director Debra Granik’s austere, plain-spoken saga of destitution and faith set in the hardscrabble hills and hollows of Missouri’s Ozarks.
Like a distant cousin to the willful Mattie Ross, the determined teen whose quest enlivened the 1969 Arkansas-Indian Territory film “True Grit” (recently remade by the Coen Brothers), Ree is a reluctant detective determined to hunt down her man and to stand firm in the face of danger. Except where Mattie’s adventure was picturesque and chipper, Ree’s is largely squalid and harrowing.
Granik, in just her second picture after 2004’s similarly stark “Down to the Bone,” has adapted Daniel Woodrell’s flinty novel with a stripped-down aesthetic that brings home the abject poverty, the lowdown Southern gothic creepiness, the meth-addled horrors of life in the deepest depths of the Ozarks’ insular hill country.
Everywhere, there are trash-gutted yards, ramshackle hovels, foreclosed lives and the barren faces of people made crazy and old before their time. Where once, moonshining was the region’s going illegal concern, crystal-meth cooking as taken its place and left a scourge of misery, hatefulness and waste in its wake.
It’s in this grim setting that Ree (Jennifer Lawrence, heartbreakingly brilliant) barely survives with her invalid, spirit-broken mother and younger brother and sister. One wintry day, the sheriff arrives to inform Ree that her father is due in court on drug-dealing charges and has put their property up as bond collateral. So, if he doesn’t show up, this good ‘ol boy drawls, “well, ya’ll gonna lose this place.”
So Ree stiffens her spine and sets out, with the reluctant aid of her volatile uncle, a crankhead named Teardrop (John Hawkes), to track down her father. And a dire trek it is, through a fearsome countryside populated by wily kin who are suspicious of all, who are unwilling to help and recoil, often violently, at her inquiries.
Message Sent Successfully
Be Sure to Check Out Our Top Headlines
Back to share with a friend form.
Add More Recipients