Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Shelley Waggener, Lauren Sweetser, Ashlee Thompson, William White, Casey MacLaren, Isaiah Stone, Valerie Richards, Beth Domann, Tate Taylor, Cody Brown
Written by: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Daniel Woodrell
Directed by: Debra Granik
MPAA Rating: R for some drug material, language and violent content
Running Time: 100
Date: 01/21/2010

Winter's Bone (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Kin and 'Bone'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The powerful sophomore feature by Debra Granik (Down to the Bone), Winter's Bone has the grace to approach its grim material and run-down, depressing setting with genuine humanity and curiosity, as well as gripping suspense and uniformly excellent performances. What looks like a wallow in poverty and desperate situations is actually a celebration of resourcefulness and the importance of family. In searching for her father, Ree finds new depths of bravery within herself.

Seventeen year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her invalid mother, and is now in charge of raising her younger brother and sister. She receives word that her father, a meth "cooker," is out of jail. He has put up the family house as part of his bail bond, and if he fails to show up for his court date, they will lose the house. Ree must navigate the treacherous world of backwoods drug-makers and drug dealers, looking for clues to her father's whereabouts, facing escalating violence wherever she goes. The deeper she gets, the more she begins to realize that her father may not even be alive anymore. Only her dangerous uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) can help, but how far can Ree trust him?

Thankfully, these mountain men and women are not portrayed as brainless rednecks; the story plays out like a chess game. All the players have their eyes on each other's pieces, and each knows what the next move is going to be. As Ree goes deeper on her quest, her showdowns become increasingly tense and unpredictable. Granik films with amazing poetic realism, focusing on small, potent details to establish a firm sense of place, all of which enhances the characters and the story.

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