Monday, 12 September 2011

Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone has a lot to offer in terms of authenticity. Director Debra Granik’s film set in a methamphetamine-afflicted community in the Ozark Mountains drips with realism. It’s a shame it’s so dull. When the majority of a film’s cast is made up of dangerous rednecks high on crystal meth, it really should be more interesting than this.

17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has a messed-up mum and an absent father. This means she has to raise her two young siblings. Daddy is a meth chemist awaiting trial. He has put the house up as part of his bond and gone AWOL. If he doesn’t turn up to court they lose the house. To save the family home Ree searches for her father, meeting a number of people who are disturbing or disturbed.

Granik cites Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as influences. Visually she has more to offer than both of those directors. Then again that may be down to the tiniest hint of Americana being so much more cinematic than a lot of say, London. The attention to detail – in all things hillbilly – is impressive; the younger kids playing has a touch of Gummo about it, guns are casually loaded and left lying around like any household item, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a squirrel being skinned for dinner before. However, none of it says a huge deal other than, it sucks being this poor. And there is a lot of repetition – in terms of imagery and even plot.

Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence is good but, as with the film in general, overrated. The superb John Hawkes - who I’ll always think of as the awkward Richard in indie favourite, Me and You and Everyone We Know – here plays a twitching ball of drug psychosis, like Dennis Hopper on a bad day. Sadly the script he was given is weak. The dialogue is minimal and what there is of it carries little weight. Granik does have a good eye but if the characters are going to talk this little then the images need to say a lot more.


  1. If this film was called Bernie Winters Bone then it would have smashed box office records. Stupid stupid film producers. Why was Schnorbitz never A-list?

  2. Still think it would have been better as a seasonal porn flick.

  3. Ultimately I struggled to care.

    There are some very cinematic moments ( Mostly involving Teardrop and the lake scene also stands out) however these moments of success merely highlight the failings of the rest of the film. The dialogue may be authentic and seem more suited to a western but it's so sparse and delivered so flatly that it's affect is left mute.
    The soundtrack suffers the same problem effective and haunting but so rarely used as to hinder the film rather than enhance it

    There is a lot to recommend but in the end it does not add up to the sum of its parts.