Winter's Bone - Blu-ray Review

'the perfect antithesis to the average crime story where money, self-aggrandisement and general law-breaking are the key motivators'

It used to be that as genres became more and more saturated, film makers would continue to saturate them. Call it 'cashing in' or 'giving the audience what they want' or one of any number of phrases but when cinema-goers show a predilection for liking something, several more similar films show up. Perhaps - and I'm looking at you here Fast Five - that is still the case.

In the Crime genre though, for a select few films, things seem different. The American, for all its minor flaws, attempted to redefine the assassination sub-genre. 44 Inch Chest, for all is major flaws, sought to de-construct the machismo posturing of gang-land mobster films. Winter's Bone does its best to do something new with the family-based crime story.

Heroine Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is, to all intents and purposes, actually the antagonist. Refusing to take no for an answer she pursues the mystery of what happened to her father, not through some miss-guided and floaty notion of justice or sentiment, but for the very practical reason of wanting to keep her house. The strong and honest narrative drive that this gives Winter's Bone is the perfect antithesis to the average crime story where money, self-aggrandisement and general law-breaking are the key motivators. The crime present in Winter's Bone is explored in passing through Ree's honest denial and fortitude in her battle to eek out an existence.

At just over an hour and a half director Debra Granik gets the film's pacing spot on. Draw it out further and too many shots of sparse Ozark Mountains start to creep in. Cut it shorter and we don't see enough. Those searching for cliche could describe the landscape as a character in its own right. Understanding the community and the Ozarks are key to understanding Winter's Bone. This is a lawless and slightly decaying territory for a lawless narrative occasionally touching on decay, complete with symbolic River Styx-esque boat trip.

A strong slice of little-seen Americana with Lawrence compelling throughout. John Hawkes' Teardrop is destined to become a character of legend.

Look further...

'speaks sharply to the dated gender roles, commonplace drug usage and extreme poverty that flood these parts without anyone knowing or caring' - Black Sheep Reviews, 4/5


  1. the thing that blew me away about winter's bone was the authenticity of every single character. they seemed so real- like people i've known. having lived in that region for a couple years- and my husband is from around there- it felt like the camera crew was just dropped right into a real town. it was a disturbing view for me for just how spot-on the portrayal of rural missouri was. seriously, one of my favorite movies in years.

  2. Your comment about the main character actually being the antagonist as opposed to the protagonist struck me. That's a pretty interesting way of seeing things. Do you think so for her somewhat selfish reasons for wanting to find her father?

    I likened her to a film noir protagonist. Those characters indeed frequently shared traits of antagonists, so you may on to something with that analysis, but I still saw her as more of a heroine.

  3. aspiring_x - agree completely on the characters. Teardrop in particular is not on screen very often and has few lines but you feel like you know all about his backstory from just the few hints that are dropped in. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    edgar - I think you can see her as the antagonist not because of her finding her father but because she obviously threatens the way of life the people in the Ozark's are obviously useful. She antagonises the 'elders' and breaks the status quo, leading to the events in the second half of the film. So definitely agree with your second comment; she's an antagonist but one that it's easy to identify with and feel sympathy for.

  4. This was a damn good film. I liked how it showed the 'other' America. No Wall Street, Hollywood glamour, money, ritz, etc, it is the dirt poor.
    Jennifer Lawrence impressed me no end. So talented at such a young age.

  5. I’ve heard this described as a neo-noir in the mountains, which combined with the stunning cast makes it a must-see for me whenever I have the chance. Glad to see it passed inspection over here! Good Review!

  6. Brent - definitely one of the reasons why I liked it and yeah, Lawrence's performance is great and notable for its consistency - she really nailed the character.

    Dan - it is noir-ish now that you mention it although that didn't immediately cross my mind when I was watching it. I'm sure you'll enjoy it, it's excellent.