Winter's Bone

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(22user reviews)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
You wonder if they’ve even heard of Washington, let alone Barack Obama, in the back-of-beyond territory in which this bare-knuckled, grisly mystery unfolds. Debra Granik’s uncomfortable social thriller, set among the woods and crumbling dwellings of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, is an adaptation of a 2006 book by Daniel Woodrall and won the prize for best American drama at Sundance. Bleak barely does justice to the world into which Granik fearlessly leads us as we follow a girl struggling to care for her two younger siblings in the face of horror piled on horror.

That girl is Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a 17 year old who is surrogate mother to her little sister and brother. Their mother ‘don’t talk much’, Ree says, and mostly stays indoors, suffering, we assume, from depression. Their dad, Jessup, has disappeared, and it’s his absence that haunts and drives ‘Winter’s Bone’. His family has even less money than usual – ‘We’re just a little short on cash right now,’ Ree tells a neighbour when asking if their horse can feed with theirs – and police and bail bonders are sniffing around their land: Jessup has a court date approaching, and if he jumps bail, which looks likely, the family will lose their home. Not for the first time, Ree refuses to buckle under official pressure or threat of harm. ‘I’ll find him,’ she promises. ‘I said, I’ll find him.’

Ree becomes our eyes and ears on a dark and grim journey through her community, a warped network of uncles, aunts and cousins, most of whom live in shacks and rundown farms and are a hair’s breadth from the crystal meth scene that looks to be the area’s main industry. We realise soon that Jessup’s disappearance must be linked to this dark world, and the police tell Ree that her dad has been ‘cooking again’. During Ree’s odyssey, we meet a list of haunting characters, at the top of which is Jessup’s brother, Teardrop, who looks gaunt, ill and dangerous, snorts meth with one hand and is ready to raise the other to anyone who dares cross him. Violence is a shared language. ‘Didn’t he shoot your daddy one time?’ asks one character of Ree, talking of another.

Granik balances the pace and intrigue of a mystery thriller with total compassion for Ree, played with much skill by Lawrence. In scenes with Ree’s brother and sister, Lawrence shows the caring, intelligent side of Ree – the same emotional intelligence that leads her to negotiate her father’s absence with such resourcefulness and resolve. The film threatens to get stuck on a single note of gothic bleakness, but Granik punctuates this cloud of gloom with scenes of astonishing tension, including one tender episode of a grandma singing a lullaby during a family party and another involving a stand-off with a policeman. And the film reaches a climax of dread and terror in a final, nighttime, lake-borne scene during which our feelings mirror the look of absolute fear and desperation on Ree’s face.



Release details

Release date:
Friday September 17 2010
100 mins

Cast and crew

Debra Granik
Debra Granik
John Hawkes
Jennifer Lawrence
Kevin Breznahan

Users say (22)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:1
1 person listening

While I liked the movie, I found it lacked an essential character in the novel: WINTER. The evocation of a bitter, icy, relentless winter makes Ree's journey excruciatingly difficult.

Just don't understand the popularity of this film. It's extremely dull and static. Nearly two hours of "get me out of here" boredom. Worst film I've seen this year.

Agree with time out verdict especially performance of Jennifer Lawarence who should surely get award nominations for her performance. I have to say I found the dialect very hard to follow.

A film that is part mystery, part sketchy anthropological case study about a creepy tribe of Rednecks: Proud, prone to violence and whacked out on crank. From the hogshit rises a teenage girl with a mission - a fascinating and moving one, suspenseful and plain scary at times. Jennifer Lawrence gives an awesome performance. Truly memorable. Watching her face is well worth the price of admission, never mind the mystery.

This film was really slow & didnt really get going for me, the lead actress & her siblings played good roles, however I thought the ending was a disapointment, once again - in my opinion TO has over rated with the stars

A fascinating thriller with supremely well maintained tension, let down a little by an ending which seemed at odds with the earlier mood. So refreshing to enjoy a film which doesn`t adhere to the repetitive, formulaic methods of too many features which turn up in Britain`s multiplexes.

Certainly not a bundle of laughs and best clear the house of sharp knives and razor blades before you leave to see this film. No country for young women, If you enjoyed The Road, this film is for you, or want kitchen tips on prepping squirrel pie watch on. I think I will watch Revolutionary Road tomorrow to cheer up.

An interesting and worthy film,highlighting the ugly and stupid brutality of the American redneck culture.Two fine performances from the lead and the part played by her father's brother.(teardrop)The story is flat however in that it constantly in one gear.The film is just too self indulgent in it's own misery.Scenes are just repeated ie meeting some nasty person to find out where her father is,then turned away to meet another of the same and again.The lead just plays the distraught girl too many times.What is good are the two actors and the grey Illonis widerness.The story lacks credibility at times.Inspite of all that it is a film worth seeing and has many fine moments.

Not sure TO's review is one that will incite people to go and watch this but it surely gives an accurate depiction of what takes place in the film. I haven't read the book so I can't compare it to the film (although as a rule of thumb only very few books are inferior to the films) but Winter's Bone is a gripping story, thick and tense. The director plays well with the light and there are a few interesting camera takes (Teardrop's encounter with the Sherriff being one of them) that convey the intensity and insurmountable pressure that builds up gradually, yet only surfaces in small but sudden blows. Ree, her family and relatives are all god forsaken people - even for Ree there seems to be no way out and that feeling of entrapment seems to sap through her soul. Lucky for the rest of us we don't need to stay with them long, these are the haunted creatures of another world far away from ours.

Given the good reviews for this film from TO and other journals, I was expecting a lot more. The film is evocative and gives an interesting insight into the underclass and forgotten (?) people of America. Nevertheless I found the film slow going and felt that nothing much happens. The lead actress delivers a good performance, as do the support actors. Not that enjoyable really.

It takes a lot for me to bother to write a review. The subject either has to be amazing or historically disappointing. I regret to say that I'm writing now owing to the latter. Winter's Bone is an outstanding novel. It's one of those rare books that allows the reader to experience a world that they most likely did not know existed. I can't remember having read a more menacing book in years. Normally I wouldn't be interested in seeing a movie after reading the book. But this time I thought the book would make a great movie. More than anything I wanted to see how the director re-created the rival clan-leaders 'Teardrop' and 'Thump Milton'. What an abysmal effort. Read the book - it's fantastic. Avoid the movie - it's pathetic in comparison.