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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Review: Winter's Bone (15) ★★★
An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Sometimes performances can overshadow a film and cover up essentially a poor story.
This has never been more true with films such as Raging Bull, Forrest Gump, Driving Miss Daisy and more recently the ridiculously Oscar nominated The Blind Side. Whilst Winter's Bone is nowhere near as poor as those efforts the fact remains that the performances carry the film rather than the story.

Winter's Bone is a tough watch. Not so much as in the subject matter but purely because of the pace of storytelling the director has decided to go with. This is not always a bad thing, many great films take their time and expand on the plot but you have to have a solid, interesting story to back this up. Winter's Bone does have a good story it's just that allowing it to develop over such a laborious pace doesn't seem to fit right.

As I've mentioned, I've no problem with the story, its an interesting character driven plot anchored by a well deserved Oscar nomination for Jennifer Lawrence.

Lawrence plays Ree, a seventeen year old who has had to take on the responsibility of bringing up her younger brother and sister after their father, the local bum and drug dealer, goes missing and their mother falls into depression. Whilst Ree does not shirk this motherly role her problems rise when a bails bondsman calls stating that her father has skipped trial and in doing so put the house up as collateral. This then basically means that in about a week they'll be turfed out. Ree then sets out to find her father and thus save the family home.

The trouble Ree has however is the town that she lives in administers their own law. The local police force also know this and seem very willing to allow the community to sort out their inner problems and look the other way. Ree's father is not well liked and its this obstacle she has to overcome to find out what has happened to him.

This is a bleak film and the town in which our protagonist resides is equally so. Horrific characters lurk in every corner, some trying to take her younger brother, some even going so far as to kill her just to keep things under wraps and curb the attention her search brings. All the while though Ree shows how tough she has become and above all plans her motives based on the protection she has for her family.

A good story as I've said but again the trouble is that it's all played out so slowly. Scenes seem to hang and go on and on without any real reason for doing so. The runtime is only approx 100 minutes but due to the toilsome pace it feels a lot longer.

It's a good job that all the performances are outstanding, and I mean outstanding. Lawrence plays Ree with a swagger that defies her years. Confident yet at times fragile as tissue paper. It's a performance that should really have been seen by more. John Hawkes plays Teardrop, Ree's Uncle who reluctantly joins her in the search. Hawkes portrayal as the older brother is at times jaw dropping. Haggard and weathered, you can see that this man has been through the wringer and not had an easy life. You never know where he's coming from and to call him untrustworthy would be an understatement.

If only this ticked along at a decent pace I would have classed this as great film, its just a shame that it has this slowness about it that may force certain viewers to switch off. It's worth the watch, if at most for the performances.


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