Winter's Bone (2010)
Directed and co-written by Debra Granik
Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly
John Hawkes as Teardrop
Kevin Braznahan as Little Arthur
Garrett Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin
Saw at twilight showing at local art house theater July 14th, 2010, along with a dozen other people, mostly senior citizens
I thought this was a great, low-budget mystery movie, with something very real at stake. The movie is set in The Missouri Ozarks, not the partying by the lake area of the Ozarks, but the backwoods area that most people think are backwards, where many people live on and off of the land and woods. Especially when the small towns can't offer enough employment and those who live off of the land and the woods can barely eek out a living, these rural areas become havens for all kinds of illegal trade and creation. During prohibition, this meant moonshine. Nowadays, it means meth. Seventeen year old Ree lives with her nearly catatonic mother and a younger brother and sister in a small cabin surrounded by what her uncle calls "hundred year old woods." She has quit high school to take care of them, though she obviously values their education, quizzes them as she walks them to school. She dreams of going into the army, not to get away from her family, but to use the sign on bonus to care for them and to take them out of the Ozarks with her. She's a fairly straight arrow in a bad situation which soon gets worse. The local sheriff lets her know that her father is due in court the next week, but no one can find him, which is now Ree's problem since her father put up their house for his bail. Now this tough girl must find and confront her father's known associates, many of whom she's related to, in at least a distant way, and all of whom are involved in shady illegal activities that may come to light if Ree finds her father. All the while, Ree also tries to figure out what she'll do if, when, she loses the house and her family has no place to live. I thought this was a very good movie, harrowing in a everyday, down-to-earth way, just a young poor woman, struggling on the edge of homelessness, pushing against other people who were once in a situation like hers and chose illegal means to make a living.
Not that it's difficult for me to find something in a movie to relate to, but this movie did make me wonder how close my life might have been to this movie if just a few decisions were made differently. Now there were four people, two hetro couples it appeared, sitting in front of me, who "oh my" and "ugh"-d during scenes of backwoods life, like Ree showing her brother and sister how to skin a squirrel, so they could eat if something happened to her, or she wasn't around. I got he distinct feeling that these four sixty-something suburbanites felt they were above eating any such thing. Now I have eaten squirrel and I'm pretty sure it was killed by a family member. I've also eaten rabbit and quite alot of deer. After a bit of being a brat as a kid, I've gotten over not eating something because I thought I was too good for it. This would go double if I was in Ree's situation. Which is a situation that is pretty close to situaitons that some of my relatives have probably had. Much of my maternal grandfather's family still live in and around a small town in Southeastern Missouri where my grandfather's parents built their house. But none of these relatives have log cabins and large plots of land. Those who do have their own property live in a trailer on a small plot of land. I remember going to a funeral for one of my grandfather's brothers several years ago, before my grandfather passed. Afterwards, we went to my grandfather's sister's house, a trailer which could have been pretty nice if it didn't have too many people with too many clothes and school books scattered everywhere. My great aunt was taking care of four or five (or more maybe) of her grandchildren because their parents couldn't due to alcohol or drug addictions. Now what would happen to those kids if, when, my great aunt dies? Last I had heard, from my grandma, before she passed, my great aunt was taking care of even younger children, a baby or an infant that her youngest daughter had given birth to while she was clean from cocaine, before she got hooked on meth, the meth that my great aunt said was ravaging the area faster and more thoroughly than alcohol or any other drug had before. Watching this movie, especially watching one character who's face reminded me so much of my own grandfather, hollow, grisled, with that beak-nose, I wondered how my life might have been different if my grandparents had moved back to that small town after he got out of the army, if my grandfather had made it a regular habit to drink as much as his brothers, if, if, if. But a different decision here or there can change so much. Things might not always look so great right now, but I know that I am fortunate in so many ways, fortunate that my life isn't tougher, isn't closer to that edge. I just gotta try to be thankful for that more often.