Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter's Bone

2010, US, directed by Debra Granik

Debra Granik's film features just about every cliché of Appalachia, and yet for the most part manages to turn this into a virtue, creating a strong sense of a place far from the highway and from most of mainstream American life - there's no mention of what's playing on television or of Wal-Mart - rather than a parody of the impoverished backwoods.

There's an extended criminal family (literally everyone seems to be related), folk music evenings like something from a revival of Harlan County, USA, mental illness, ubiquitous drug dealing, children with guns, even a squirrel stew scene, and yet the tone is so resolutely bone dry, without ever a hint of either comedy or disrespect, that there's an almost documentary feel to much of what we're seeing. There's also a terrific sense of rhythm: this is ultimately a quest movie, as single-minded as its lead character (played by Jennifer Lawrence), and at times it has the pacing, and the tension, of a thriller - where the greatest threat seems to come from within the family.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States