Sunday, 12 October 2014

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone ... more like Winter's Groan, am I right?! Nah, I actually really liked this film, I just couldn't resist the joke. Please, read on.

Winter's Bone (2010) Poster, jennifer lawrence, boat, trees, woods
Tumblr has ruined pictures like this because all
I can think of is this shit.
First things first (I'm the realest...), Winter's Bone is a 2010 adaptation of the novel of the same name, featuring a then unknown, (every age I've read so far has been different, so let's say between eighteen and) twenty year old Jennifer Lawrence. It's director Debra Granik's second film; the first being Down to the Bone (what is with this lady and the word 'bone' being in the title?), a movie that put Vera Farmiga on the map. Right, back to the point. Winter's Bone follows Ree Dolly (Lawrence) as she tries to track down her meth-cooking father because he put their house up as his bond, so when he skips his court date, the local sheriffs come a-knockin'.

gif, jennifer lawrence, winters bone
Hat equals want.
Almost everyone that Ree comes into contact with whilst tracking down her father are relations of some sort - this is a very family-oriented film. Ree is trying to find her father to save her family home, where she raises her two younger siblings because her mother is severely mentally unwell. It's a story about a very tight-knit community as well; everyone knows everyone else in the town - Ree's neighbour helps her out with food and other such things because she know's their family is struggling . This kindness is a commodity that Ree relies upon greatly (her friends also help her with transport and such), because she would never ask anyone for help; as she tells her younger brother, "Don't ask for what ought to be offered".

But that's more or less where the helpful figures end. Everyone else in the town who knows what has happened to Ree's father are determined to keep things very hush-hush. Of course Ree's ancestry means that the people she approaches are more helpful than if she were a stranger - by which I mean she isn't killed straight away. She is gently warned to stay away, and when she doesn't, well, for a lack of technical terms, shit goes down. These people allow her a privilege and when she pushes that privilege too far by not standing down, something has to be done about it. At first they try and fool her - they tell her made up stories, things like "Oh yes, I saw him getting on the train to some place", or, "I saw him get burned to death," all as part of their instinct to protect her family. This made up ignorance is better for her well being, the cops get told what they want to hear and the true events of what really happened remain under wraps. Perfect, everyone is happy. Except Ree is determined and she certainly isn't stupid, not by a long shot. 

jennifer lawrence, winters bone, girl, blonde, hat
The whole movie looks like this - grim and grey, lots of hats.
I thought the setting of the film was great. It's set in the harsh back-woods of America during winter. It's a refreshing change of scenery, especially with the tone is has set for itself. Too many times have I watched a film with this tone (dark, thrillery, family-centric, etc.) and all of them have been set in cities with gangsters in slick suits and what not. This is not an easy place to be; it's a gritty and unforgiving landscape which threatens to freeze you to the bone (eh? See what I did there?).

The inhabitants are a different sort of terrifying as well. Due to the fact that everyone knows each other, you can't scratch your nose without everyone knowing in the space of ten minutes - something which poses itself as a problem when the sheriff's department comes sniffing around in a town which has created a new set of rules for itself outside the arm of the law. This is a law that even the sheriffs office appears to respect; it definitely feels like they don't venture up to the town very often, and when they do it's out of desperate necessity, because when they turn up they look nervous as all hell. Even Ree's friendly neighbour, who has been shown to help her out on numerous occasions and someone who Ree trusts, asks her if she told the sheriff anything, to which Ree responds that she wouldn't, even if she did know anything. Ree's caught in a fairly sticky situation, having to juggle with telling the sheriff's department one story concerning her father (and protecting the people who have threatened her) and actually trying to find him.

The scariest characters in this film are of a majority female, which I thought was great to see. The men in the film are fairly useless - they talk about doing stuff, the stomp about or they aren't even shown on screen. It's the women that actually get shit done and they're scary doing it. They are the messengers between Ree and their husbands (who are normally useless until their wives step in), they are the ones who take action when no-one else does and I'm gonna stop there before I let too much information slip. The only male character in the film worth a damn or is even kind of interesting is Ree's uncle Teardrop (played by John Hawkes). As an audience we have no idea when or if Teardrop will help her or hit her, and neither does Ree, leading to some pretty intense scenes. There was the opportunity for Granik to make these characters cartoon red-neck villains, but thankfully that doesn't happen; the film doesn't pretend that it's above, or that it's better than these people, instead it gets right in there amongst them. In fact, many of the stars of the film, as well as most of the extras, were from the surrounding area and hadn't acted before, which leads to a fantastic sense of authenticity. 

winters bone, jennifer lawrence, text
Said me, in reference to university.
If there is one thing I'll warn you guys about, is that if you watch the trailer for this film prior to watching it, you'll be expecting a very different film than that of the one you are about to receive. It's another example of misleading marketing so I'm not going to link you to the trailer because I think you should watch it with a clean slate.

Winter's Bone is slow and meandering, but it does hook you in. With Ree's tenacity and determination to find her father, the quiet sense of danger bubbling under every interaction and with a damn good score, it's an hour and forty minutes of utter intensity; so if you've got time to kill, go forth and watch. However, I wouldn't watch it if you're having a bad day or feeling particularly miserable, because you will want to kill yourself after watching this film. It is unapologetically bleak. Yay! 

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