Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) looks after her mentally ill mother and two siblings when a bail bondsman shows up telling her that her father is out on bail for producing methamphetamine, and if he doesn’t show up to court, she risks losing her house as part of the bond. Ree then goes in search of her wayward father, risking everything to prevent her and her family becoming homeless.
There’s a bleakness to Winter’s Bone that never lets up. Even during its lighter moments, which are few and far between, there is a ubiquitous, unrelenting dreariness that could drown lesser films. However, Winter’s Bone uses it to its advantage, totally enveloping you and drawing you into Ree’s struggle. This family isn’t as much living as surviving, and there is always the sense that Ree’s life could have been so much more. However, the fact that her family comes above everything else shows that there is real purpose to the character and this is film’s driving force.
The two main roles on display here are Lawrence’s Ree and her uncle, Teardrop, played by John Hawkes. Both actors are superb in their roles and well worthy of their Oscar nominations in 2011. Lawrence in particular shows that she is more than capable of handling a lead part, and it’s no surprise that bigger roles have since come her way.
Winter’s Bone isn’t the most accessible of films, and some may be put off by its somewhat slow pace and largely uneventful (not a criticism) plot. However, it’s an affecting film that will resonate with many as a tale of austerity and family struggle, and one that has a real warmth under its icy exterior.