This powerful film came on to my radar on June 9th, while I was having lunch at John Barleycorns McMenamins in Tigard.  mcmenamins.comjohnbarleycorns (Great food there and an excellent selection of Whiskey and three different Whiskey Flights that are only $10.00 each- a heck of a deal) JBC Specialty menu

During lunch I read  USA Today (as I often do), and I saw an article by Anthony Breznican that piqued my interest “Sundance winner ‘Winter’s Bone’ defies easy labels” – life movies 2010-06-09 wintersbone

Sadly this movie was not yet playing in Portland. However, two weeks ago, it opened in Portland, and last Thursday my 13-year-old son and I went to see it.

To see if this movie is playing in your area, check out this link – theaters

This a haunting, gritty movie.  I highly recommend it.

I give it 5 out of 5 gas cans.

The story, the insanely detailed sets, the angst-ridden, yet longingly-hopeful ambiance created the sense that violence and pain lies just under the surface to be meted out to anyone who breaks the unwritten, unspoken,  family rules –  all of that equal amazing story telling.

When this movie was over, my son Zac turned to me and said “People really live like that don’t they?” I told him, “Yes,  people do really live like that.”

Zac then said “Did that movie remind you of your childhood”? I replied – “Yes it did.”

The movie opens to strains of a song I discovered is the Missouri State Song – Way Down in Missouri or The Missouri Waltz, depending on who you ask.

Great music in this movie. The music fits so well with the images and the feel of the movie. According to the movie’s website the soundtrack will be out later this summer. I would love it if they put out the score as well. To hear the score, go to this website and click on the “Film Score” button –  I particularly like Hardscrabble Elegy and The Lake.

So many of the scenes and phrases in this movie stuck with me.

Toward the beginning of the movie, main character 17-year-old Ree Dolly is looking in the fridge to find something to feed her younger brother and sister…The fridge is basically empty. I remember doing exactly that as a child. To an uncared for child, an empty fridge is hope hollowed out.

Tone-setting scene:  Ree’s Uncle Teardrop says “I already said ‘Shut up’ once with my mouth”…implying that if they don’t stop talking, he will use his hand to say “shut up.”

Later on Ree’s younger brother Sonny starts lining up various empty plastic bottles. I knew what I would see when the camera pulled back. Ree was going to teach her little brother and sister to shoot – just in case someone needing killin’. Been there done that.

Uncle Teardrop early on in the film makes it clear to Ree that she needs to abandon her quest. Great scene.

Ree is on a quest to find her dead beat, meth cooking father. He has put the family homestead up for his bail, and he has skipped. If Ree does not find her dad (alive or dead), Ree and her brother and sister and her beaten-down, broken-down mother will lose their home and become homeless.

This movie does a great job conveying the rigors a child experiences when they have to grow up too soon and become the responsible adult in the family.

Along those lines –  a powerful, disquieting scene occurs when Ree tries to get her mother to help her with all that the family is facing. If you, like me, have a mother who failed you as a child, your heart will go out to Ree. You will wish that someone would step in and comfort this courageous girl trying to do a grown parent’s job.

My two favorite characters are Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and Teardrop (John Hawkes).

Interesting Fact – The last movie that Debra Granick directed  was Down to the Bone (2004) and the main character was played by Vera Famiga, who did such an outstanding job in Up in The Air. wiki Debra Granik in the Air Movie Review

My Favorite Scene – When Teardrop shows up for Ree.

My Favorite Quote – Ree lovingly says to her brother and sister, “I’d be lost without the weight of the two of you on my back.”

Go see this movie with – Someone who feels – i.e. has emotional maturity. Go with someone who knows that this world is often a painful place and is willing to occasionally face the awful fact. Go with someone who grew up poor or uncared for. Trust me – the experience of this movie will enrich them, not devastate them.

To see some beautiful photographs from this movie go to Sebastian Mlynarski’s website film

Zac said that this last picture nailed it – Three kids alone in a bleak barren place.

I will not be suprised if this movie gets mentioned come Oscar talk time.

Steven Shomler