One of the fun parts about my job is that I get to see excellent lesser-known films that I otherwise may not see. WINTER’S BONE is definitely one of those discovered joys. Thankfully, the film has been recognized in the Independent circuit. I hope and believe that it will follow its received recognition from Sundance with a few nominations at the Academy Awards.
In the Ozarks of Southern Missouri, 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) has sacrificed her education and is taking care of her incapable mother and two younger siblings. Her father is an unknown and hasn’t been seen by the family for quite a while. The sheriff explains that their drug trade involved father put their home up as collateral to pay his prison bond and unless he turns himself in their home will be taken. Ree stubbornly forces her way into the dangerous trouble of her father’s mysterious absence in order to save her family.
The tone is set in the opening with a version of the Missouri Waltz played over beautiful cold mountainous Ozark scenery. A little girl tries to wake her older brother up by pile driving him and I’m hooked. I knew right away that I cared for these people. The music and landscape immediately draws the audience to the characters and understanding their struggles to survive a simple living that is anything but,
The authenticity of WINTER’S BONE is the true force of the film. I’ve mentioned Southern Missouri before which in itself is a major character of the film that very nearly steals the show. The music, land and characters breathe their location. The scenery gives a real sense of the cold and the type of characters we will be dealing with. Every element is in sync from the editing and pacing to the supporting roles. Dale Dickey as Merab, wife to a bad man in charge, delivers cold cruelty while simultaneously emoting motherly love. She captivates the screen in her brief moments. But all the actors were phenomenal bringing the characters to life. I know many of the people used were locals in the area and they were terrifically real. Jennifer Lawrence as Ree is the true star though. Commanding the screen with ease, she is very nearly in every frame of the picture. Lawrence is a natural in her subtleness with all her emotions mixing fear and bravery. She currently is lined up to play Mystique in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and I expect to see a lot more of her in the future as she was amazing wonderful.
WINTER’S BONE is subtle in how it keeps you on the edge of your seat. But in retrospect is very straightforward with surprising and shocking nuances. The blue grass music and Missouri landscape draws you in and the characters keep you there. The filmmakers did a fabulous job immersing the audience into their world. Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress, Song and Score- I hope at least a couple of these categories get some recognition when the major award season starts up.
Video: (1080P HD 16×9 Widescreen 1.78:1) The video quality is good.
Audio: (5.1 DTS –HD Master Audio) The audio is very quiet. I had to turn the volume extremely high to hear the dialogue.
Audio Commentary with Director Debra Granik and Director of Photography Michael McDonough: They both have a lot of praise and love for the place in Missouri that they shot and local people who helped out. It’s a pretty basic commentary that comes off a bit dry.
The Making of Winter’s Bone (46:38): This isn’t quite your typical making of. Lots of quiet behind the scenes action as filming is taking place with very subtle directing and acting. I got the feeling the shoot was very strait forward with a lot of help from the locals just doing a days work. We see a lot of rehearsing. It’s very slowly paced without much talking.
Alternate Opening (1:29): Shot like a home video with another good song put to it but very forgettable. The one used in the film really grabbed me.
Deleted Scenes (10:17): Four scenes that roughly total ten minutes that is mostly just a variety of unnecessary moments that were already established. One scene does connect Ree to her friend a little more with the two touchingly singing to her friend’s baby. These types of features should always have a “play-all” button.
Hardscrabble Elegy: Composed and Performed by Dickon Hinchliffe (2:59): The absolutely beautiful instrumental score put to scenery video.
Music Credits: This is a credits list of all the magnificent music written and performed in the film.