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Bleak. That is the first word that came to my mind after seeing the film. The last time that happened was after finishing reading “The Road”, and it is no coincidence that some reviews take on that parallel. This, actually, is more bleak. While The Road depicts bleak life after a catastrophic fictitious event, here we find bleakness right in front of our eyes, in our everyday life, in an area somewhere in Missouri, among families who can hardly survive. A girl who needs to raise her two siblings and take care of her mother “who went crazy to get away from all this”, financial woes, survival techniques. How many films have I seen where a kid is taught how to skin a squirrel? Zero, I think. As if this was not bleak enough, her father (perennial drug cook and dealer) put in their farm house as security for his prison bail, and now he is nowhere to be found. That moves Ree (the fantastic !! Jennifer Lawrence) out on a quest to find him, so that they can keep that little bit of world that they can call home, bleak as it may be. Along with her, we meet the most terrible characters the American hinterland has to offer, and only through great persistence does Ree manage to collect the information about her father’s whereabouts, piece by piece.

The star of the movie is that piece of land where the story takes place: it oozes frostiness and hostility, and I would not be surprised to find a warning sign upon arrival “enter the world of despair and violence”. The action taking place in this land is slow, everything seems like slow motion. Still, it moves forward, and the script manages to get some hope into the last scenes.

Update: I just tried to come up with a list of my favourite films for the last couple of moths, and it seems Winter’s Bone is way up there… odd…

Update 2: I watched it again Sept 2011, almost 9 months later, and it is getting better! what I realized this time more than last time is how subtly the script weaves in the “quest”, or “task” the heroine has to complete – there is actually a motif of  a thriller, a riddle to be solved, and this allows the atmosphere, the tapestry on which all this is painted to be all the more bleak, because there is a thrilling story that drives you forward and holds you gripped. There are good guys and bad guys, even though you have to stretch the definition of “good”. Survival instincts have taught  Ree great skills both in terms of cooking stew out of nothing and in talking back to bond hunters, this is a really well written script, like a desperately realistic counter-version of “Juno” for grown-ups.

One Comment

  1. There’s a wonderful ambience to the whole thing. I think it makes for a wholly original mystery. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is excellent too.

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