Rosebud / UK premiere

Winter’s Bone

  • Debra Granik /
  • USA /
  • 2009 /
  • 100 mins

Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee, Lauren Sweetser, Tate Taylor / Fiction / English

Fascinating, deeply atmospheric thriller based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell.

Set in the desolate Ozark Mountain region of the central United States, this enigmatic thriller follows 17-year-old Ree Jolly (Jennifer Lawrence) on a desperate quest to save the family home from the bailiffs, after her drug dealing father skips bail. Pulled perilously close to a brutal family of crack cocaine dealers, Ree is forced to undergo a series of terrifying ordeals, where death is always a distinct possibility.

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  • #1 Mike Hall / Sunday 20 June, 2010 / 10:06 GMT

    At the Q&A afterwards, the director, Debra Granik (refreshingly eloquent and well beyond the usual wanting to thank the world and his wife for being here at EIFF) described her film’s subject matter as ‘hard scrabble’. Although she wasn’t referring to a Russian Roulette version of the popular literacy board game (now there’s an idea for a film...), it was an evocative description of the tough slice of backwater American life served up here. The basic storyline – a teenagers plight to save her dependent family from imminent homelessness because of the actions of an errant and now-absent father – felt both authentic and compelling, as did the way the local community closed in around her, meting out both violence and support in equal measure.

    Using grey and oppressive colour tones, the entire film is shot in a bleak wooded landscape, where the grizzle-bearded men all look like they’ve just left the set of ‘Southern Comfort’, and the straggle-haired, world-weary lined faces of the women add to the unspoken sense of the harsh reality of life here. I doubt they see many tourists in this neck of the woods, and at the same time, the film steers well clear of the ‘and if they did, they’d probably eat them’ stereotype. I liked the sparse and effective use of bluegrass-folky-type music, which cut through, and gave some relief to, an otherwise fairly unremitting sense of hopelessness.

    Although the subject matter is an uncompromising reality-check to much of the superficial Hollywood drivel that fills our multiplexes, this is not a hard watch. At its’ heart, it’s a good story, well-told, with excellent central performances (particularly John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence) and an open-hearted sense of the local community here, in spite of their bread-line existence. 7/10

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