Winter's Bone 10/07/22 2:32
Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a 17-year-old who has taken on the duties of caring for her little brother and sister, since their mother is now mentally ill and hardly moves or speaks. One day the sheriff comes to tell Ree that her father, who put up the house as bond when he was arrested for cooking meth, is on the run, and that they'll lose the house unless he shows up in court. Now Ree, much tougher than her years, decides to find her father and persuade him to turn himself in. The way leads her through a maze of friends, relatives, petty criminals, and really dangerous people. One of her stops is at the house of her father's older brother, a beat-up looking meth addict with the weird nickname Teardrop, played by John Hawkes. He tries to scare her off at first, but with time, blood will tell, and Teardrop becomes an ally.
Granik is good with the details of backwoods life. We don't look down on these people; in a way, the themes of family abuse, hidden crimes, and deadly secrets seem almost titanic or Shakespearean, albeit in a restrained and muted style, which rises to a certain level of horror as Ree goes further along on her journey. The young Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in the central role; her character is one tough girl, all right, but she's scared and desperate too, and Lawrence lets go in those moments and makes them real. Hawkes, who I knew from the TV series Deadwood, has a strong presence here—Teardrop's menace hides an alarming sense of resignation.
It's interesting how the search for the no-good father brings out the strength in the daughter, who could very well be a force in that world on her own terms, as others in the film who try to stop her seem to recognize. It's interesting also how the women in the tale form a protective screen for the misdeeds of the men, who likely don't deserve their loyalty. Mostly you'll remember the dark mood of this movie, the dread that seems to wait around the next corner, and the girl who keeps moving in spite of it all. Winter's Bone is a riveting experience.