A glacial chunk in the midst of this summer's movie choices, Winter's Bone is an unsettling bad dream, a grim tale that becomes mythic. It features the must see performance of Kentucky-born Jennifer Lawrence (The Burning Plain). In Ree Dolly, Lawrence reveals a scrappy 17-year-old who shepherds her family on the brink of losing their home. Winter's Bone, which won Sundance's Grand Jury Award, reveals "another America": a land of poverty and ignorance, an Ozark mountain hell. The young adults of Ree's world can escape this ghetto only by joining the Army or setting up a meth lab. Drug-dealing Jessup jumps bail one day, leaving the family home as collateral. The sheriff arrives. Unless Jessup can be found, the law wants to repossess the home where Ree lives with her catatonic mother and younger siblings Sonny and Ashlee (Isaiah Stone and Ashlee Thompson).
Ree decides to fight impending disaster. "Iâ€™ll find him," she wows. Along the way, her worst enemies seem to be her father's violent brother Uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and Merab (Dale Dickey), the wife of local crime boss Thump Milton. Ree sets out on her odyssey with little emotion. Calmly she repeats to anyone who will listen - she needs to find her father's whereabouts.
Dead or alive, there is no blame. She aims only to save her family's home. Ree's quest becomes her initiation. We reel in shock at what she is expected to do. Even the coldness of the hill folk's criminal element thaws alongside the girl's resolute stand. Local residents served as actors. Director Debra Granik immersed herself in the culture for years before filming began. The film's lighter moments include authentic Ozark folk singing and playing. Ree also teaches Sonny and Ashlee to count and to shoot a rifle. Lawrence's next screen role will be in Jodie Foster's dramedy The Beaver.
17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is just able to keep her family together in a dirt poor rural area, despite a catatonic mother and an absent meth-making father, Jessup. She takes on the responsibility of raising her two younger siblings and dreams of entering the military. After her father's arrest, the local sheriff tells Ree that Jessup put up their house as collateral for his bail; unless he shows up for trial in a week's time, they will lose it all. Determined to find him dead or alive, Ree doggedly questions her father's criminal relatives and associates, but everywhere she goes the message is the same: stay out of it and stop poking your nose in other people's business. Even her father's brother, Teardrop (John Hawkes), tells her that Jessup has probably been murdered. Undaunted, Ree pushes on. After Ree has tried to speak to the region's patriarch Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall) twice and has consequently been beaten up, Teardrop, who had at first told his niece not to pursue any further in her father's lot, rescues and tells her now, that Jessup obviously had started supplying the sheriff with information about his meth-dealing kin and thus probably was killed by one of them. Teardrop tells Ree "she owns him" because he has taken responsibility with Thump for her future actions. He also tells her that if she finds out who killed her father, not to tell him, because then he will end up "toes up" also. Ree sees no further options that would enable her to either keep the house or keep the family together. Then, one night, the Milton women approach Ree and make her go with them to "her father's bones". They want to settle the argument without revealing too much and without any more rumours being told about them. They take Ree to a lake where the women reveal to her the place where her father's body lies. Merab then cuts the hands off the corpse so Ree is finally able to prove the death of her father and thereby resolve the issue of the bail. In the last scene, Teardrop breaks it to Ree that he knows the name of Jessup's murderer, but doesn't reveal it.
After the release of Debra Granik's first film Down to the Bone, Granik and co-writer Anne Rosellini were looking for another project. Granik and Rosellini informed author Daniel Woodrell of their interest in his yet-unpublished material. They comment that he was receptive to their interest based on their previous work "He had seen our previous film, which let him know how we work, and the scrappy type of filmmaking that we do, which would be low budget. He had a very distinct reference and he let us know that he liked that film, which also had the word ‘bone’ in it. It was called Down to the Bone. And when he gave us that confidence, he knew what we were about, so the expectations were appropriate, you know."
Granik also commented that the subject matter of meth and its impact upon the Ozarks region was troubling for both cast and crew. "I think that the subject of meth for everybody involved – for local people and the crew – it was extremely upsetting. There is not one aspect of looking at meth that is mellow or benign: what it does to a human being’s body, their faces, their teeth. Everything about it is so vicious, and so dramatic and so relentless. There is basically not one bit of solace in that whole depiction of actual reality of it."
Granik comments that the filmmakers gave Lawrence "obstacles" to create a more authentic and detailed performance. "I think that Jennifer Lawrence was given these very real settings in which to function and very real obstacles. She really had to run the hill. She really had to wrangle her on-screen brother and sister in certain things. She did have logs and different kinds of animals to contend with. And the fact that she had these real-life tasks I think we started to feel confident that everything the actress was doing would have a rigor to it and you would sense that she was not just breathing through experiences.
* Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly
* John Hawkes as Teardrop Dolly
* Lauren Sweetser as Gail
* Garret Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin
* Dale Dickey as Merab
* Shelley Waggener as Sonya
* Kevin Breznahan as Little Arthur
* Ashlee Thompson as Ashlee
* Tate Taylor as Satterfield
* Sheryl Lee as April
* Cody Shiloh Brown as Floyd
* Isaiah Stone as Sonny