BUY FROM AMAZON: Standard Def • Blu-Ray • Book
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
• Audio Commentary with Director and Director of Photography
• The Making Of Winter’s Bone
• Deleted Scene
• Alternate Opening
• “Hardscrabble Elegy” music
• Theatrical Trailer
Dolly is a seventeen year-old girl living deep in the Ozarks with
responsibilities well beyond her years. Her meth-cooking father has long
since left and her mother is a step above catatonic, leaving her to
raise her younger brother and sister through sheer willpower, cautious
optimism, and the occasionally offered charity of a neighbor. When Ree
finds out she’s about to lose the house to her missing father’s bail
bond, she sets out to track down her father, or his remains, and
discover who among this community of dangerous (and often related)
people knows where to find him.
Debra Granik (director), Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Kevin Breznahan, Michael McDonough (D.P.)
would be a successful film if its only strength was a powerful lead
performance, or a gorgeously shot environment of texture and detail, or a
subtly crafted tale of determined investigation that would make the
most classic noirs proud. Winter’s Bone
is not merely a successful film though, and is something closer to
incredible, simultaneously possessing all of those things, and more.
film has spent the entire year taking the festival circuit and its
limited release by storm, and with good reason. Jennifer Lawrence
portrays Ree Dolly with graceful courage, absolutely believable as a
real person, a real 17-year old, and yet exudes the dramatic gravity
necessary to be the center of a film that could be described as a crime
drama, a detective’s story, or an inspirational parable with equal
accuracy. Ree is looking for her father, plain and simple. She’s got a
week to find him before the bail bondsmen repossess their house, yet
there’s no trite reliance on a ticking clock for tension- the cold stark
reality of the situation makes it dramatic enough. Her search will lead
her through the county, probing her neighbors and family (often one and
the same) for answers or hints about her father’s fate. The danger
comes from how thickly her family and their surroundings are wrapped up
in a world of amphetamine production that seems to be making no one
rich, but everyone paranoid and every confrontation potentially deadly.
While a great deal of screentime is devoted to folks advising, cajoling,
tricking, beating, or damn near killing Ree to call off her search, she
presses on with tenacity.
first two acts, which introduces you to the community around Ree, her
friends, begrudgingly charitable neighbor, and thoroughly unromantic
crime infrastructure clip along with as much determination as Ree.
Things start to get heavy very quickly, but I was originally concerned
by a third act that seems to conclude things in a passive way.
Information and closure are seemingly delivered rather discovered, and
Ree doesn’t have a moment of grand triumph where she tricks this person
or forces some other group into a position where they must help her.
Instead, the conclusion comes more naturally, perhaps realistically, and
upon further consideration I figured this to be the natural and
inevitable end to a journey that is not about winning anything. Ree
doesn’t care about the mystery of who might or might not have killed her
father, she just wants a place for her and her siblings to sleep at
night. The film’s drama and beauty comes from the extreme maturity with
which she handles this situation, and incredible drama the filmmakers
manage to pull from this rarely exploited environment. The film engages
familiar and effective tropes of the detective genre, but it doesn’t
rely on the same easy paths to satisfaction.
can’t let this review go without recognizing the fine work of John
Hawkes, who plays Teardrop- brother of Ree’s long-gone daddy, and
possibly the most dangerous of the meth crowd. He ultimately sympathizes
with Ree, but is determined to keep her out of it. Hawkes brings his
a-game here, and Teardrop is a very different character than something
like his role in American Gangster. Here he is of sunken faced and
quick-tempered demeanor, with a constantly present edge of danger. He’s a
scrawny guy, and yet you believe it when other fat rednecks fear him or
when an armed cop backs down from him. The timing of the performance is
impeccable, and Hawkes (likely with the help of excellent direction and
editing) allows Teardrop to be only as sympathetic as he needs to be in
any particular scene, even though we ultimately feel warmly for this
drug-cooking, drug-snorting, murderous asshole.
In his very positive review,
Devin mentioned that the power of the movies is the ability to bring us
to a new world that we’ve never seen before. He’s absolutely correct,
but my experience with the film is quite a bit different, as a native to
Georgia with family spread out through the north end of the state all
the way up to Tennessee. The film takes place in the Ozarks, which is a
region with a personality all its own, but still remarkably similar to
what I grew up with and traveled around for the holidays. Many of the
faces and environments are ones very similar to those of some of my more
removed family, minus the meth squalor. The winter’s chill blowing
through the pine forests as you stomp around the accumulated detritus of
three decades, on land that’s never quite been a farm but is still
intensely rural, is very familiar to me. I appreciate the film even more
for its amazing ability to capture that feel, that quietness, that
textured age. The photography is stunning- the production used a RED
camera and from what I could tell from the deleted scenes and making-of
featurettes, shot the film with an extremely blown-out look that was
brought down in post with added contrast. This succeeds in finding the
color among the desaturated earth tones of the Ozarks, with the peaking
highlights giving each frame a winter’s chill.
is a stunning film, and will be another one of those rich, quiet dramas
you pull out for the friends and movie nights of discerning taste.
audio/visual experience on the DVD is very solid, with the high-quality
digital photography well preserved on the disc. The sound is good,
though I did notice some messy/absent foley that probably speaks to the
low budget (pretty much the only aspect of the film where the budget is
evident, and only subtly so), but the dialogue is all recorded well.
features include some deleted scenes, a few of which are nice but
wisely excised. There is a fairly hefty making-of doc that gives one a
good feel for the chilly production, and just how deep the filmmakers
got into this authentic environment.