¨Never ask for what oughta be offered.¨
Winter`s Bone is director`s Debra Granik`s only film that I have had a chance to watch (she also directed Down to the Bone, so I guess she must have something for bones), and I was really expecting much more from this picture considering it won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance and it has recently been nominated for four Oscar awards (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence, and Best Supporting Actor for John Hawkes) with which I only agree with the two acting nods. Without a doubt the highlight of this movie is Lawrence`s breakthrough performance as Ree Dolly. She is great in this film, especially with all the non-verbal communication she conveys with her silence and facial expressions. She is one tough girl who hasn`t been corrupted by the world in which she was raised and manages to take care of her mother and siblings and she`s only 17. The other highlight of the film is John Hawkes performance as Ree`s father`s brother, Teardrop. He is excellent as a supporting character, but Lawrence is the true star of the film. The screenplay was adapted by Granik herself along with Anne Rossellini from Daniel Wodrell`s 2006 novel of the same name and I have to say the pace of the film is rather slow. There is a real authenticity and reality to the film, and poverty is depicted in a very natural manner, but at the same time the movie moves along at a very sluggish pace.
The story takes place in the Ozark Mountains, a very poor Southern rural area where all the locals seem to be involved with illegal drugs (cooking and consuming crystal meth to be more precise). Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl who has had to mature beyond her years and raise her two younger siblings on her own because her dad is constantly away from home due to troubles with the Law and her mom is mentally ill. Somehow Ree has managed to grow up strong and apart from this drug environment and manages to support her family. One day the town Sheriff (played by Garret Dillahunt) shows up bringing some more bad news for Ree. Her father has put their home as a guarantee to pay his bail and if he doesn`t show up in court in two weeks they will lose their home. The problem is that her father hasn`t showed up for a long time and no one seems to know his whereabouts or at least don`t want to talk about it with Ree. She tells the Sheriff she will find him and sets this as her primary mission. She begins asking questions to several people from the area that were involved in the same crystal meth business her father was, but no one seems to help her. The name Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall) shows up, but she gets into trouble for trying to speak to him. Finally her father`s brother, Teardrop (John Hawkes) decides to help her out after refusing to help at first. The problem is that there seems to be a code of silence between the people in the Ozarks and no one is willing to break it.
Winter`s Bone is not actually a mystery film, the main focus of the movie isn`t really trying to find out where Ree`s father is or what happened to him, the issue Granik is really trying to get at is portraying a real and authentic environment involving poverty and responsibilities a teenager shouldn`t have to carry at such an early age. Ree`s character is the center piece of the film and it is a wonder she turned out so strong in the midst of such a bad environment. She doesn`t seem to belong with the rest of the people from the Ozarks and yet she is still willing to find enough courage to stand up against them and their code of ethics. Lawrence delivers a very strong performance and Hawkes is also a great supporting character as he has to confront himself with the fact of helping out his niece or keeping up with the code of silence he has always sworn too. None of the characters of the film are one dimensional, they are all real characters and Granik manages to stay away from stereotypes. Ree`s neighbors offer help at some points and at others they turn their backs on her. Winter`s Bone is well balanced, it is also beautifully filmed, but somehow I didn`t think it was such a great film as many critics have pointed it out to be. For me the pace was too slow and the 100 minutes seemed an eternity. The movie still is a pleasant experience, it is good, but I just don`t think it`s great or Oscar worthy material for Best Picture. I would have preferred Affleck´s The Town to have been nominated in this category, a much stronger film in my opinion.