Winter’s Bone (2010)

(On DVD, January 2011) There are films I won’t see unless they’ve been nominated for Academy Awards, but Winter’s Bone goes father in being a film I wouldn’t have seen all the way to the end unless it had been nominated for an Academy Award.  Taking place deep in the rural Ozarks area, the film is set in a desperately poor way of life where petty crime and family loyalty override more wholesome values: this, clearly, isn’t the virtuous middle-America lauded by social conservatives.  It’s in cold weather that our wise-by-necessity teenage heroine sets out to discover where her missing father has gone, despite violent warnings, the quasi-certitude of illegal activity and the bone-chilling landscape of winter in hillbilly hell.  What could have been an intriguing criminal investigation set against an unusual setting instead turns into an experience of endurance as the film quickly becomes a trek through a place that I desperately wanted to escape.  The harsh naturalistic cinematography, coupled with ugly characters, desperate circumstances and bleak landscapes, does everything to repulse viewers.  Meanwhile, the slow pacing, lack of plotting and repellent circumstances only prolong the agony.  While there are a few nice sequences in the film (the lake scene is brilliantly gruesome), an interesting inversion of the usual city=bad; rural=good clichés, and Jennifer Lawrence is a solid anchor for the film, much of it feels like an endless nightmare: I spent most of Winter’s Bone thinking Get me out of here… even as I was doing something else at the time.  Goodness helps those who see this without distractions.

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