I always think people like to watch family movies over the holidays – in fact, I was incredulous this weekend because one of our friends said they’d never seen “The Sound of Music”. I was floored, especially since I was in our high school production of it (yes, just like Prince Harry I once wore a Nazi uniform in public…) – and it’s one of The Beloved’s favorites. He must be an out-lier. I think the story of love and family overcoming long odds to stay together resonates, especially at this time of year.
Anyway, I was thinking about that last night as the Beloved and I settled in to watch “Winter’s Bone” which I didn’t know much about, other than that it had won all sorts of Independent Spirit/Sundance awards. Indeed, this was another tale of family overcoming long odds in the mountains, but there were definitely no marionette shows or gazebo dances.
In the film, 17-year old Ree Dolly (wonderfully played by Jennifer Lawrence) endeavors to find out what happened to her deadbeat, hillbilly, meth-making Dad, while trying to care for her younger siblings and her incapacitated mother. Sharp, but not completely wise in the ways of the world, Ree runs afoul of intrigue in her closed-off Ozark community, where the meth trade has become the economic driver, and family loyalties and grudges run deep.
The film is grim, filmed in greys and browns – and the frost-hardened Ozark woods are as much a character as many of the people, mostly dead and strewn with the detritus of this broken community. The residents are hard and mete out “justice” according to their own rules and traditions. There is an unflinching view into the casual violence that infects life in this community – in many ways it reminded me of “The Sopranos”, but with bad clothes and teeth.
Yet, Ree is never seen to complain about her life and its crappy circumstances – she doesn’t whine on facebook (I don’t think I saw a computer or cell phone in the entire film now that I think about it), daydream about a different life, or vent to her one close friend. She just deals with it – doing what she has to do to keep her family together.
Okay, so maybe it’s not for the whole family to watch — put this on after the kids have watched “The Sound of Music” and gone to bed.
8 stars out of 10.