SIFF Sighting: WINTER'S BONE (drama; USA)
When we arrive in the Winter's Bone world of backroad Ozarks, we immediately know that 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is tough. Tough from poverty, tough from cold Missouri weather and tough from growing up too fast.
Her father Jessup, a meth-mixer, has gone missing. He's on the run from the law and may or may not already be dead. Her mother is on site, but not present. She's ruined from drugs and maybe some mental illness thrown in for good measure. There are also two younger children: Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson), who just want to be fed.
Ree learns that unless her father materializes, the family will soon lose the log cabin home they're living their miserable existence in, so she sets out to find him. Under normal circumstances, this would probably be no big deal, but in this rural nightmare it proves to be extremely dangerous. She is threatened, beaten, chased off—you name it—because she shouldn't be asking questions.
Resourceful, if not intelligent, Ree tries to join the Army to earn the money to save her home, not realizing that she can't take her siblings with her to basic training. If you think this scenario sounds sad, it is. But it's also a series of quiet occurrences that you can't take your eyes off of.
Everyone is punished at one time or another for someone else's stupid mistakes, and to watch this poor girl endure a life sentence of other people's mistakes is practically unbearable. Ree is a martyr for sure, but all of the characters in the film are tragic.
I didn't like riding out the pain of her struggles, but I certainly appreciated the writers' brilliance to get me there. Every situation, however horrific, was made believable by the realistic dialog and the impressive, understated acting.
A fine triumph in independent film.
Winter's Bone screened at the 36th annual Seattle International Film Festival.