Most recent talks Film talks A-Z Before viewing talks Deep talks Sign up: email updates About the film talks Stay up on new talks Join the community
What's this site about? Inside out: Heart Inside out: Beauty Inside out: Love Thoughtful: a film's heart Thoughtful: film content Thoughtful: films to watch Who's behind this?
Register and login General PttH updates Film review sites Film site quick views Quotes The PttH seminar

Winter’s Bone (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

The opening of Winter’s Bone is exquisitely crafted to draw us slowly in from the lightness of country children playing on a trampoline to the core tension of the story. The contrast lends great effect to the rest of the film and its exploration of hard times, family relations, loyalty, honor, and grit. As a pattern for the rest of the film, it also serves to mirror the times in life that seem to suck us deeper and downward, one thing leading to another. What drives us on when life’s tunnel gets only darker? How strong are the ties of love that feed our sense of responsibility and fortify our courage to take the next step into the darkness? What compassion will we have toward family and friends that face the dark tunnel? And, if we’re not the one caught in the vortex, will we act, even at risk to ourselves, to offer light and help to another? Winter’s Bone plays on the stereotypical insularity of the Ozark mountains to build a compressed and powerful context for asking such questions.

The excellent filmcraft of the opening continues consistently throughout the film. In the leading role, Jennifer Lawrence binds the film together with a compelling mix of innocence and determination. The film’s moderate to slow pacing reinforces the slow relentlessness with which life’s progression of events can press upon us. Though the plot of Winter’s Bone goes to very dark places, the onscreen content is restrained. Some might say that, in one particular place, the plot goes too far, yet I find that it serves to emphasize the depths at which our character may be tested in this life — and for which our hearts ought to be prepared, even though next to none of us will ever face a situation like this particular one.

Winter’s Bone is well worth the time, yet one must be ready for the seriousness of the territory it explores.

Ree Dolly is a late teens Ozark mountain girl caring for two younger siblings and her ailing mother. Times are hard, and then the sheriff tells her that he’s concerned her father, Jessup, who is again at risk of being convicted of a felony, won’t show on his court date. If he doesn’t, Ree’s family will lose their house and land, which Jessup has put up as bail. Trying to find her father and save the family further hardship, Ree crashes hard into her tight-lipped, strongly self-protective ring of extended relatives. Running time: 100 min.

The themes in Winter’s Bone are heavy throughout. Drinking and drug use factor into the fabric of the film’s issues, though their onscreen presence is muted (but still clear). There is no gore onscreen in the film (oh wait…there is a hunting scene where a wild animal is dressed), although violence is implied in more than one place. We see blood only once in the aftermath of a physical beating. Then there’s that one particular scene referred to above, where a gory act, though off-screen, is made clear through what is onscreen — I’ll say that I support the filmmakers’ choice to have this bit in the film, though it is disturbing.

  • Director: Debra Granik
  • Screenplay: Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini based on novel by Daniel Woodrell
  • Leads: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Lauren Sweetser
  • Cinematography: Michael McDonough
  • Music: Dickon Hinchliffe

Tags: , ,

NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
(spoilers are allowed in comments when a Before viewing talk does not have a corresponding After viewing talk for discussing the film)

Post a Comment

NOTE: It is okay to have spoilers in comments on Quick talks, but please do warn folks with "** SPOILERS **" or some such.

You must be registered (it's easy) and logged in to post a comment. Why?