While researching locations for her superb 2010 feature ‘Winter’s Bone’ in the Ozark backwoods, writer-director Debra Granik was introduced to biker and Vietnam vet Ronnie ‘Stray Dog’ Hall, the subject of this wise, generous documentary. Granik’s mission is clear from the off: to introduce a character who, on the surface, appears to be the epitome of reactionary, ex-military, trailer-dwelling ‘white trash’, then gradually pick away at the veneer until we come to see the human being within.
But knowing what Granik is up to doesn’t detract from the weight and warmth of her film. The trust Hall places in his director is remarkable – we follow him through every aspect of his life, from undergoing psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder to waking up with his sweet-natured Mexican wife Alicia, whose twin boys he’s sponsoring to come to the US. The result says more about modern America than a hundred serious state-of-the-nation dramas: here is a man who has been repeatedly betrayed by the country he loves, but honestly believes he can make it a better place.