Review: Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone, co-written and directed by Debra Granik, starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, viewed at the Wilton Town Hall Theater on September 4, 2010.

This is a gripping, intense movie, beautifully filmed, brilliantly acted, directed with subtlety and economy. The central character, a 17-year-old girl in the Ozark back country who has taken on responsibility for raising two younger siblings and caring for her nearly catatonic mother, navigates a world of poverty, drugs, violence, and intimidation with courage and integrity. The film creates a convincing, discomforting picture of a world I found very foreign, but through it shines the universality of the heroine’s love, steadfastness, courage, and sacrifice.

At one point she is teaching her younger brother how to skin and disembowel a squirrel; he resists, but she insists it’s something you have to do (in this case, if you want dinner). This scene prepares us for her own passage “through the eye of the needle,” as she must deal with a terrifying, unspeakably gruesome challenge — but something she has to do.

I suppose the plot is pretty pedestrian in some ways, but the story is told engagingly, with suspense and unpredictability. However, the real focus of the film is character and relationship, and in that it has a haunting authenticity that will stay with you for days.

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