After watching Winter’s Bone, I looked around my living room at all of the stuff that I have and am proud. I felt like I had to do this after watching this film because of the almost post-apocalyptic surroundings that I found myself in for the last hour and forty minutes. The crazy thing is, it wasn’t an apocalyptic film, just one that examined a poor, drug riddled, rural community where violence and hatred is implied, and no one wants to deal with anyone outside of their families.
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl who has the responsibilities and concerns of a 40 year old. She is in charge of raising her younger brother and sister, and taking care of her mentally unstable mother. When her father goes missing a few days before his court date, and after putting the Dolly’s house up as collateral for his bond, Ree begins an investigation to find her father, dead or alive before her family loses the house. This investigation takes her into the darkest corners of her rural community to the point where her life and the lives of her family members are threatened.
The first thing I want to say about this film is that not once was I ever comfortable with my surroundings, and this is one of those movies that sucks you in so much you won’t even notice someone who walks right in front of you. So for the entire film, every scene was just a new situation that I wanted to get out of unscathed as soon as possible. The violence in this film is covertly menacing. There are more threats than there are actual scenes of brutality, but the threats are certainly not hollow.
That’s what makes this film succeed: it’s gritty realism. Not too much really happens in this film, which makes it feel sort of empty, but the realism makes up for it. If this situation were to actually occur in a lawless community like this one, I’m sure that Winter’s Bone accurately portrays how everything would unfold. The realism is also boosted by Jennifer Lawrence’s above average performance. The southern twang and headstrong bravery makes her the perfect heroine for this film. Underneath all of the bravery, however, lies the weakness and fear of a 17 year old in way over her head.
The cinematography is also worth praising. Everything in this film appears cold. The colors are really toned down and the grays and whites are accentuated to help immerse the viewer deeper into the world of the film. It works very well and is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, aspects of Winter’s Bone.
This is definitely not a perfect movie, however. In fact I got pretty bored quite often. A lot of reviews say this film holds non-stop thrills and breathtaking sequences. That isn’t really accurate at all. I’m not saying that I hate slow films, because I really enjoy slow films. I thought The American was a great movie, and it isn’t easy to find a film that drags on as much as that one. The problem here is that the story felt a little hollow. I understand that this probably wasn’t supposed to radiate in your face intensity, but there could have been a few more scenes that were exciting. One in particular is very memorable, but made me wish there were more like it.
All in all, I enjoyed Winter’s Bone. This film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. I don’t think it’s that good, but Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination for Best Actress was well deserved. This is a good neo-noir film that should definitely be respected for its masterful cinematography and subtlety, but it is by no means a masterpiece.