It has been eons since I have experienced a more bleakly brilliant film; so brutally raw and realistic that it has a voyeuristic flavor, the viewer should not be privy to the gruesomeness and pain inflicted on the characters, especially the indomitable Ree Dolly (precociously played by Jennifer Lawrence). We must pay homage to Daniel Woodrell upon whose book this iconic film is based and to the genius of directors Debra Ganik and Anne Rosellini who nurtured it to fruition.
The plot revolves around a seventeen- year old girl, whose drug making father has jumped bail, disappeared, leaving as collateral her paltry farm nesting in the Missouri Ozarks; she is the pillar of stone and strength that keep her mother, sister and brother from starving. Her Herculean efforts to find her father, while protecting her family are gut wrenching and typify the Chinese adage “the strongest steel goes through the hottest flame”. And fire of this intensity has not been witnessed on the screen since Scarlet O’Hara, in “Gone with the Wind”.
She is aided in her endeavors by her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes, gives a performance of such magnitude, it ranks with the elite of best performances ever portrayed in the history of film) a terrifying man with banished hope and a life wasted at the altar of addiction.
The title, so intriguing sparked a spirited conversation between a feisty, intelligent friend and me. “Winter” was obvious; the melting ice cycles, frosted breath and sterile landscape, enhanced the desperation of their plight. Also reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s 1961 “The Winter of Our Discontent” based on William Shakespeare’s Richard III (“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York”). Never has winter been so paralyzingly painted, without volumes of snow.
“Bone” is more complex in its interpretation. References to “throw a bone”, a break, a gift, a pass; “bone of contention”, disagreement, argument, an issue that must be resolved between parties; bones constitute the skeleton of mammals and humans. But the mystery of “bone” revolves around Ree. Her survival instincts and inscrutable will enable her to grapple with and conquer the most insidious impediments, all in the name of love and survival; she is godlike in her mission.
“Winter’s Bone” takes fortitude to view but you leave knowing that winter has concluded and perhaps not “summer”, but spring and hope are on the horizon for this daughter of the Ozarks.