Winter’s Bone

Incredible movie!  It’s set in the Ozarks — that’s rural Missouri/Arkansas, for those not intimately acquainted with American geography.  Think Appalachia: in-bred mountain folk with a clannish ethic, tough, stringy people.  Mean, too, especially the womenfolk.  The way the film is shot, you see the bleak beauty of the place, its isolation.  I was drawn into the gritty reality of the picture immediately and not in a detached, anthropological way.  I felt like I knew this world by the end of the film, I understood the people and respected them on their own terms — not that I’d want any of them for friends.

The main character is Ree, a seventeen-year-old girl who has dropped out of high school to look after her younger brother and sister.  Her father’s gone, her mother is mentally ill.  She’s the only person holding the family together and she’s got too much pride to ask for help outside the extended family.  Only problem is, the family business is crack.  Up in them hills they’re running meth labs — not that any of her relatives seem to be making a profit.  They live in crappy houses with junked vehicles and rusting machinery littering the grounds.  Nobody washes much or changes their clothes.  Nobody cracks a joke.  They’re all paranoid and there’s an edge of violence to every encounter.  Ree stubbornly persists in asking questions, putting herself in harms way, determined to get at the truth of what happened to her father no matter what it costs her.

The novel upon which this film is based was described as “country noir” and the basic story does remind me of a classic mystery of the Chandler/Hammett variety.  Ree could hold her own against Spade or Marlowe.  Actually, she’s got more street-smarts than either of those guys and not a single romantic illusion.  But by the end, she’s gotten the answers she needs to go on.

I’ve said enough.  Watch the trailer if you need any more convincing.

(23 December 2010)

2 thoughts on “Winter’s Bone

  1. FYI… Not everyone who lives in or is from the Ozarks are “tough, stringy, inbread mountainfolk”. I am from the Ozarks, as a matter of fact this movie was filmed less than 40 miles from my home. Many Ozarkians are educated and intelligent. We don’t all use meth. Believe it or not some are even successful, wealthy business people. It’s frustrating to see the way that my native homeland is portrayed in films. Though this movie and other do portray some ‘folks’ around here quite accurately, we aren’t all living in poverty, completely cut off from society. Most of us even have cell phones and computers.

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    1. Thanks for stopping in, Ali. I don’t believe that “Winter’s Bone” gives a rounded picture of the Ozarks — its people or its culture. It’s a story based in one place, involving one family and I found it quite powerful. I did hear an interview with the author of the book on which it was based where he said that this was a pretty accurate account of his own experiences, but no, one shouldn’t take a single story as a portrait of an entire region.

      I hope you’ll take some time to look around a bit — mostly I review classic movies and you’ll see that folks have a lot of fun here.

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