Unreal Movie Review: Winter’s Bone

When you think of the genre “crime drama,” certain images come to mind. Mobsters whacking each other with baseball bats, gang bangers shooting it out in the streets, things of that nature. What you don’t envision is the quiet landscape of the Ozarks, plagued by poverty and the cold more than automatic weapons fire.

But that’s the setting of Winter’s Bone, which is perhaps the most subtle entry into the genre I’ve seen in quite some time. It tells a heartbreaking story of a piece of America lost in time, where poor residents of remote mountain regions have taken up cooking and selling crystal meth, destroying themselves and their communities in the process.

This is the story of the byproduct of such a life style, the broken families struggling to survive when their fathers have all gone crazy.

Ree Dolly is all alone. Her mother is borderline comatose, her father is absent and she’s left to take care of her little brother and sister at only seventeen years of age. She handles the responsibility as best she can, but suffers back breaking news when she learns her father, out on bond from jail, has gone missing. If he doesn’t show up to court, her house, which he posted as collateral will be seized, and her family will be without a home.

It’s up to her to find her meth dealing father, but encounters unfriendly resistance from all sides. it’s a close knit community in a way, as everyone who lives in the area is related to each other either directly or once or twice removed, but when it comes to the meth trade, they’re as defensive and tight lipped as they come.

Ree’s only ally is her uncle Teardrop (named for the prison tattoo on his face), a hardass who seems abusive at first, but protective when he needs to be. He’s the only one left in her family these criminals fear, but even with him on her side, she’s up against fierce opposition telling her to stop asking questions about her father.

It’s a haunting film, and one that shows a harsh reality seldom thought of in today’s world. Much of the focus on crime in the news is on urban inner city areas, but the drug trade is spreading like wildfire in places like these, as there’s seldom a substance more addictive, or dangerous, than meth.

The film is beautifully shot, and is full of genuine, authentic performances from its principal cast. The plot tends to meander around, and isn’t really full of big reveals as it is slow realizations. Toward the end, things get pretty confusing, and I’m still scratching my head about the implied resolution, and I think I must have missed the answers to a few of my questions, or I’m just not smart enough to figure things out with the clues given.

Winter’s Bone is something this genre needs, a dark, but not hopeless, tale of real crime in a place long forgotten by the rest of the country. It may not have the answers you’re looking for, but it’s an intriguing journey to the end nonetheless.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. What’s so confusing about the resolution?

    Ree tells the bondsman her dad is dead. He says they need proof. The women that beat her up decide to take her to her fathers body so they can remove his hands. She delivers said hands to the sheriff. Bondsman gives Ree the leftover money they were given by the mysterious man, most likely thump wilson or one if his cronies. Teardrop tells Ree he knows who killed her father, implying thump will kill him next.

    *end spoilers*
    Overall a really good movie with an excellent performance by jennifer lawrence. I would give it 4 stars, but that’s just me.

  2. Wait, why would Thump kill him next? Wouldn’t Teardrop go try to kill him? And why was it a mystery who supplied the money and killed him? I thought it was pretty clearly Thump, but the fact they were making it ambiguous implied it might not have been. Also, why did Thump supply the money, and what did Jessup do to warrant his murder? All of that’s what was confusing to me.

  3. Thump supplied the money because the house didn’t cover all of the bail money and he needed jessup out of jail so he could kill him. Jessup was talking to the sheriff about thumps organization and thump couldn’t have any of that. I think teardrop told that to ree after he trashed that guys car in the bar parking lot. I’m sure teardrop would *try* to kill thump before thump killed him, but thump had a large group of people working for him so teardrop was scared. At least thats the way I read it.

  4. As for Jessup’s crimes, my guess was making the meth and being caught. But it’s left open for interruption, so it could have been anything.
    As for the rating, i would have given it 4.5.
    But opinions. Hmph.

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