"Is this gonna be our time?"
Ree Dolly doesn't wear a uniform, or own a badge. She certainly doesn't wear a cape and fly around the city saving pedestrians from imminent threats. But she is a hero in the highest sense. Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a seventeen year old daughter to an absentee father and a severely damaged mother. She's also the "mother" to her two younger siblings Sonny and Ashlee. Girls Ree's age are usually finishing high school, planning their prom and selecting what college to attend. Ree on the other hand has to chop the wood, teach her brother and sister to make stew, and how to shoot and skin squirrels.
WINTER'S BONE takes place in an unfamiliar world: a backwoods fairy tale from the Brother's Grimm. This is land filled with trailer parks and meth labs, where families have enough skeletons to fill a hundred closets. Ree is visited by Sheriff Baskin (Garrett Dillahunt) who informs her that if her father doesn't make his court date they lose their bail offered home. This sets Ree off on a discovery not only for her father's whereabouts, but also one that delves into her kins culpable pasts.
Jennifer Lawrence, for one being so young, commands attention the moment she's on screen. Her performance is one of honesty and sadness, yet also strength. The lengths she goes to save her family will not be disclosed here, but they are significant. Along her journey she reconnects with Uncle Teardrop, played by John Hawkes. Hawkes has made a history of playing sheepish characters, but here he is downright scary. His first confrontation with Ree sheds some light on their lives, as well as sets the stage for his actions in the later acts. Incredibly, WINTER'S BONE is director Debra Granik's second feature after 2005's DOWN TO THE BONE. In DOWN, it was actress Vera Farmiga who benefitted from Granik's eye and used it to springboard her career. I suspect the same will happen to Lawrence.
The most impressive trait of Ree's, is the total disregard for her own safety in her search for her father and the truth behind his disappearance. The questions she asks and the people she poses them to puts her directly in the line of fire. Either she's too naive to understand the consequences of her actions, or she simply doesn't care. She is single-minded in her endeavors to ensure the well-being of her family, but the answers she finds are perhaps even too much for her to handle.
Jennifer Lawrence is the undoubted star of the film. She is the heart and soul and John Hawkes is the pulse. I suspect WINTER'S BONE will remain on a limited release, but if by chance you get an opportunity to see it, do not hesitate to do so. The trials that Ree Dolly goes through are feats far beyond her years; she is someone we should all aspire to be like.