Article by David.
I absolutely adored ‘Winters Bone’ ; the second film from Indie director Debra Granik (‘Down To The Bone’) which is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name (the movie was filmed as the book was published). The film is led by remarkable performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes and it is gritty; powerful and incredibly rich in both emotion and themes. It is beautifully shot and executed even though ‘Winter’s Bone’ is also quite a cheap little film (at a few million). While it all looks great it also looks achievable.
The film opens and we are introduced to Ree (Jennifer Lawrence); who is a seventeen year old girl; she lives with her Mother and two younger siblings, in the Ozark mountains in the American Highlands. She is basically the de-facto carer of her small brother and sister because the mother is incapacitated both physically and mentally (you are led to believe its trauma related) and she is just incapable of taking care of anyone let alone herself. The mountain town they live in (The Ozark’s) are a place that is wrecked by drugs; particularly Ice.
I love that the film is set in The Ozark’s; it gives the film this lived in quality; beautiful landscapes; damaged houses; a griminess – yet a stark beauty. It adds so much to the film – the history and the ruin of the people and the families because of drugs…‘Winters Bone’ does not shy away from any of it and its a better film because of it – so atmospheric and rich in setting.
Plot wise we immediately learn that Ree’s father has disappeared; after evading jail for making Meth. In the film’s opening a police officer arrives and Ree is told that their home has been put up for the Bail; and if Ree’s father is not found alive or dead by the end of the week; then the home will be repossessed; effectively making Ree and the family homeless.
At seventeen she is the only one capable; so she sets out to find her missing father. What begins as a quiet investigative plot; slowly turns into an impeccable crime thriller – and its set in such a wonderful and chilling location – and featuring an incredibly strong female character in the lead (some thing that is just missing form a lot of film recently.) On top of all this it is shot in HD (using the RED ONE camera system) and it looks achievable.
In this sense it is that an aspiring film-maker could look at it and easily picture making a film like it. But its not the look and budget of the film that make it so great. It’s the character and theme rich story. ‘Winters Bone’ covers ground from themes of family, power of talk, poverty, drug abuse, female independence, growing up etc. To say more is to ruin the film, but the deeper that Ree gets into the Ozark Underworld the deeper the themes get.
Winters Bone’ knocked me flat – all its elements come together, from film technique to script to performance – it all results in one of the very best films of 2010 (and it would have made my top ten if I had seen it in 2010 instead of 2011). Great performances, amazing script, powerful, powerful stuff. Will amaze and inspire the artist inside of you.
10 out of 10.
Article by David.