REVIEW: 'Winter's Bone'

REVIEW: 'Winter's Bone'

REVIEW: 'Winter's Bone', Flicks.co.nz

4 stars

Missouri-set drama-thriller, the big winner at Sundance Film Festival 2010. 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out to track down her father... Click here for session info.

Winter’s Bone is an absorbing mystery-thriller set in the wintery backwoods of Missouri, a landscape of decay, dead colours, skeletal trees, threatening clouds, mangy dogs, rotten shacks and yards filled with junk.

Winter blankets the film, whether in the literal sense or the thematic – the mournful, bleak, encompassing gloom in which these people exist. Our torch to guide us through this murk is 17-year-old Ree, played by Jennifer Lawrence. There is nothing flashy about Lawrence’s performance but her quiet strength, optimism and perseverance are the heart of the film. She is a living embodiment of hope for this rotting corpse of rural America. The titular bone, one would assume.

Leaving aside the abstract concerns of Winter’s Bone, there is more tangible pleasure to be found in the ‘country noir’ thriller aspect of its plot. These spooky woods are a dangerous setting – here we find desperate, brain-dead trailer-trash, with moral centres as hollow as the burnt out shacks of their meth misadventures. Yee-haw. Squirrel-eatin’ hillbillies, with missing teeth, flannel shirts, cowboy hats and a chest full of ‘nam medals. It almost seems a bit too easy; there’s a short-hand applied, a broad stereotype that works at odds with the nuanced characterisation of the leads.

But once the mystery of the plot begins unwinding, you’ll want to know what happens and you’ll be absorbed until the very end. Where is Ree’s father? Will he show up before the important trial? The conclusion proves genuinely unnerving; just one step further into the haunting winter of Ree’s existence.

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