Written by Daniel Woodrell

Directed by Debra Granik

 Jennifer Lawrence,



Winter’s Bone



Suppose I told you that the Sundance favorite “Winter’s Bone” is the saddest film I can recall seeing, you’d no doubt turn your radio off and forget you ever heard about the film.  On the other hand, you’d be doing yourself out of one of the very best films of the year, because, like any fairy tale, ultimately it’s not a sad film.  It’s the story of a remarkable 17-year-old named Ree (played affectingly and without self-consciousness by a 19-year-old television actress, Jennifer Lawrence).  She’s been raising her young brother and sister, and taking care of her catatonic, mentally ill mother, because her father has disappeared.  That’s not so strange, since his own life’s work has been to brew methamphetamine, and he’s run away from a court date.  But he managed to put the house and his land up as part of his bail, and if he doesn’t show up in court Ree and her siblings will be out in the cold, to be taken away by the state or another of her relatives.


Let me start again.  We are in the Ozarks of Missouri, where every house is unpainted, barely standing, and every yard is full of broken cars.  Ree’s yard has a trampoline, and God knows where it came from, but which shows that at one point at least, there was a family who would do something about their children.  Ree’s siblings love to play on it.  At the same time we know that every one of Ree’s relatives and neighbors is cooking meth just as fast as they can.  They are as scary a group as you can imagine, but Ree cannot, will not let go.  She has an iron will that survives every effort to turn her away.


That’s the situation in a nutshell, and the film is about Ree’s trying to find her father and get him to court so the family won’t lose the house.  Yes, it doesn’t sound very promising, but filmmaker Debra Granik, working with co-scriptwriter Anne Rosellini from the novel by Daniel Woodrell, has made it into a profound and completely compelling film.  Andrew O’Hehir of Salon magazine calls “Winter’s Bone” the film of the year.  I said the film is sad, and it is, but if you don’t experience the sadness, how will you ever experience joy?