Wednesday 13 October 2010

Review: Winter's Bone

Year: 2010
Director: Debra Granik
Screenplay: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence,  John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan

Synopsis is here

There's a small but telling moment in Debra Granik's Winter Bone, in which the films protagonist peeks into one of the classrooms she used study, and spies a group of children learning how to look after babies. The look on her face is a knowing one. While the kids hug their dolls and enjoy the make believe, Ree Dolly (a towering performance from Jennifer Lawrence) has already faced the reality. She's not at all envious. She just knows that what's going on in the classroom isn't her life anymore.

Like Andrea Arnold's wonderful Fish Tank, Winter's Bone is a film about strong young women. Both are willing to make tough choices, accept their mistakes, and fight against their harsh realities to realise their individuality. With Julia Roberts gaining some "less than inviting" reviews, it's once again refreshing to find a film in which has women finding themselves through their moral choices and inner strength rather than shoes and chisel jawed hunk accessories. So while other teens are debating over Team Edward and Jacob, girls like Ree Dolly  are; to steal a term from The Road: carrying the fire.

Flames are unfortunately; the last thing you will find in this films harsh winter setting. Captured beautifully by Michael McDonough (the look alone makes you feel cold in the auditorium); the films grim backdrop, parallels the bitterness of the characters Ree encounters. Granik and Rosellini's screenplay highlight this with their sparse uncomplicated script. Watching the piercing glares from the so-called "family" that Ree tussles with, you realise that it's what is not said, that gives the film such an unsettling vibe. The ruined landscape only helps enhance the foreboding atmosphere and heightens the mystery surrounding her missing father.The plot of the film also has a scant feel to it, but this only makes the film even more provocative, as we watch the characters way of life, their false truths and the antagonists damaged sense of honor provide a huge amount of emotional weight.

In the center of this, is a mesmerizing display by Jennifer Lawrence who plays a girl whose clearly had to rise three people before the age of consent and will do anything to keep the family whole. Lawrence gives Ree a steely selflessness stoic heroism that cuts through the cold surroundings and is hard to ignore. Much has been said about Lawrence, but something also has to be said about the stunning display by John Hawkes whose makes sure that it's the expressions that make the impressions. There's an amazing scene involving Hawkes and a police sheriff that shows that the ice doesn't just rest on the ground.

There's true heroism within the film, displayed by a character needing to do right in order to survive. You see her fear and worry but her spirit and will to fight through the family secrets is remarkable to watch. Winter's Bone was a joy to watch from it's quiet opening moments, to it's subtly optimistic ending. Great Viewing.