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Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 06:34 am

Winter’s Bone: A chilling drama of poverty


Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone.

Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone takes place in a segment of society that many of us read about in articles decrying our nation’s poverty. Its characters are “statistics,” nameless ones who suffer in the shadows of our shame. Taking place in the Ozark Mountains, Granik’s film examines the plight of the rural poor and their insular society which eschews the prying eyes of outsiders having learned to look out for their own without any assistance from those who might meddle with their way of life.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has learned to fend for herself long before any 17-year-old should have to. Saddled with an addled mother and a younger brother and sister, she looks out for them at a great cost to herself. Unable to attend school on a regular basis, she longs to join the army as she realizes it’s her only way out. However, when her father puts up their house as collateral for bail and then disappears, she’s told the family home will be repossessed in a week’s time unless he appears in court.

The journey Ree takes to find her father puts her in great danger as her search threatens to expose secrets of those who lord over the backwoods society in which she lives. What’s fascinating about the film is its examination of the deeply held loyalties of these people. While her neighbors have no problem helping Ree by providing food and clothes for her family, they’d just as soon slit her throat if she dared to let outside authorities in because of her search for her father. Despite being too attractive for her role, Lawrence delivers a dynamic performance as Ree, tapping into the girl’s desperation to save her family home as well as find a way to a better life. The film rests on her shoulders and she succeeds in carrying it, providing a window to a world many of us, to our shame, refuse to see.

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