- Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly
- John Hawkes as Teardrop Dolly
- Lauren Sweetser as Gail
- Dale Dickey as Merab
- Garret Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin
- Ashlee Thompson as Ashlee Dolly
- Isaiah Stone as Sonny Dolly
The Ozarks provide the setting for this gritty, dark and yet also hopeful indie drama. Featuring a star making performance from Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone is an effective slow-burning drama that leaves a longing impact on the viewer.
Ree Dolly is a wise beyond her years teenager living in a dilapidated shanty town of the Ozarks. She is basically a surrogate mother to her much younger siblings Ashlee and Sonny. On top of this she also cares for her mentally ill mother, who is nearly catatonic. She will do anything to make sure her siblings don’t go without, hence her skinning of squirrels for dinner and teaching her siblings the many arts of survival. One day, the local sheriff turns up with news about Ree’s estranged father Jessup. He has skipped bail on the charge of cooking meth and has also put the family’s house up for his bond. This means that if she doesn’t find her father within a week, the family will be made homeless and the house will end up being repossessed. Unafraid, Ree decides to find her father in the strange and brutal community in which she lives; a society seemingly bound by unwritten rules of secrecy and a penchant for meth usage and production. Breaking the local code of secrecy and silence, Ree hacks her way through danger, violence and brutality in order to discover the truth about her father, and above all protect her family and her home.
I first became aware of Winter’s Bone after I heard Jennifer Lawrence had been nominated for an Oscar for it. Intrigued by this, I watched the film to see what all the talk was about the new girl on the block. Well what can I say? Lawrence is just amazing as the strong, resourceful Ree who won’t back down in her quest for answers and will literally and physically do anything in her power for her family. Her performance isn’t full of typical Oscar moments such as breakdowns and explosive arguments. Instead, her performance is shaded with a quiet intensity and a mature toughness, and is all the better for it. It is simply a star making performance and one in which she really gets under the skin of the character.Ree’s second name maybe Dolly, but there is nothing sweet or submissive about this young girl, she is a tough, resilient fighter searching for the truth that remains elusive in a secretive and savage community.The supporting cast is equally strong, especially John Hawkes as Ree’s menacing,meth addicted uncle Teardrop who eventually helps her in his own unusual way.
Debra Granik’s second feature film is all the more effective for its lack of loud, explosive moments, instead focusing on a languid and quiet lead up to the eventual denouement and revelation that awaits Ree. This indie drama is a slow-burning one that captures the brutal and territorial landscape in which Ree resides and makes the audience really feel like they are in the Ozarks. Although bleak and downbeat at times, the film is strangely uplifting in its theme of searching for the truth and remaining brave in the face of hostility. A genuinely dark and haunting watch containing an outstanding cast, headed by the talented, young Lawrence, Winter’s Bone will make your blood turn cold but also warm your heart in its strange and subtle way.