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Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone is a parched, dusty, scuffed film in possession of a certain raw intensity that the recent True Grit could’ve done with a fraction of, and if you want to be led through a menacing, barren, unforgiving hinterland by an old-beyond-her-years young hero, this is a much better bet.

Jennifer Lawrence strikes a perfect balance between vulnerable and obstinate as she sets out in search of her no-good father, who’d better turn up, one way or another, or the family house goes. Mother is a barely present dead-eyed casualty so eldest daughter Lawrence runs the show in loco parentis, whilst dad stacks up the debt and ill-feeling on his drunken travails. She meets an array of blighted, poker-faced characters on her initial foray and draws a firm and signposted belligerent nothing, other than warnings and verbal prods to go back from whence she came. As the reality of the situation becomes apparently worse she is pressed into risking the manifestation of dire heedings to get a gist of paternal whereabouts and narrowly avoids something very grim (as opposed to the fair old pasting she has clearly endured) in a garage at the hands of local backwoods thugs, marginally dragged from the jaws of community law by uncle (John Hawkes, a perfect, post-regret, emaciated-grizzly fit here).

Thereafter uncle and niece form what might have been an unlikely alliance as she recuperates, and a handy, grisly and unforeseeable solution arrives through the murk.

Director Debra Granik washes everything in sun-dulled, frosty metallic hues and uses plenty of detached, wide-angle coverage, which adds to disquiet; as though the director doesn’t want to look but feels distantly obliged.

Garret Dillahunt, who seems to be the go-to guy if spurs, murder and dust are involved, is a seemingly vital ingredient in such enterprises as this, and is as indispensable as ever, even in such a sliver of a role as the dubitable sheriff; Hawkes is excellent also. But Jennifer Lawrence will struggle to again find a role to which she is so apposite. She’s the immanent, stoic heart of the film, binding all the elements with bruised equanimity and frayed grace.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. mary gilbert
    February 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I agree with you about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance and the mise en scene was superb and no doubt entirely authentic. However after an hour or so of watching people with no teeth frying up squirrels I felt as though I’d seen enough. However I did muse over the possible target audience for this film. In all probability not the real residents of Dead Skunk Hollow rather the more comfortably off film buff middle classes wallowing in schadenfreude.
    I found the `solution’ after the trip down the creek so absurd as to be hilarious – and I love your description of it as `handy and grisly’. Brilliant !

  2. February 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

    And I didn’t think I had a chance of getting away with that pun!! Not even the merest!

    My uncle Kevin has seen it. He’s only got 3 teeth and lives on the Greater Manchester equivalent of Winter’s Bonesville. But apart from that, I’m sure you’re right there. You can see exceedingly safe folk milling about outside The Cornerhouse referring to the film’s ‘grit’ and so on, a vicarious sense of ‘slumming it’ pervading the nods and affirmations. No doubt a ‘real sense of danger’ they will never get within a mile of.

  3. March 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    For all that it does sound like a very good film with strong performances at its core.

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