In Cormac McCarthy’s The Road the apocalypse has happened. It’s cold, and the father and son at the centre of the movie can trust no one if they hope to survive.
In Winter’s Bone the world hasn’t ended. It is cold, however, and the young girl at the centre of the movie has almost no one she can turn to to help feed her dependent mother and younger brother and sister.
Nevertheless, Winter’s Bone does feel a bit like the apocalypse. The isolation that seeps over the landscape and community at the heart of the film creating an eery sense that there is no world beyond the boundaries of the town she lives in.
Ree is seventeen and looking for her father, a crystal meth dealer who has skipped bail. If she can’t find him, she’ll lose her house and hence her family. To find him she must locate and confront the dealers potentially responsible for his disappearance: all of which creates tension and despair in every scene.
Winter’s Bone is an astonishing, haunting movie that completely captivated me from start to finish. The central performance of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree is outstanding. Combine with cinematography that allows the landscape to become inseparable from the soul of the community and you’ve got a movie which lingers long after you’ve left the cinema.
The themes the movie deals with: of family, of crime and of having to grow up too fast are all handled in a very gritty, realistic way. I know nothing about life is Southern Missouri but completely believed in this depiction of it as people deal with problems outside of the law; a community which knows everything about everybody; and individuals with their own well-established views on what’s right and wrong – capable of both surprising cruelty and surprising tenderness.
Winter’s Bone is a movie which says a lot despite containing characters who say very little. It’s a movie which is completely captivating and enthralling. I hope it’s a movie that receives a wider audience than just the festival circuit since it’s probably the best film I’ve seen this year.