At age 17, Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is the de facto head of her backwoods, Ozark mountains household. She hunts, cooks, and cares for her two younger siblings and her drugged out mother. Hard times get worse when Sheriff Baskin (Garrett Dillahunt) informs her that her meth head father has skipped bail for which he put up the family's house and property as collateral. If he doesn't show up for court, Ree and her family will be thrown out on the street. Being the provider that she is, Ree sets out across the county in search for her father, leading her down a dark, dangerous path.
"Winter's Bone" tore up the festival circuit earlier this year, garnering several award nominations and a few wins. It is hauntingly authentic and captures the desperate and sad reality of the the meth trade. Writer-director Debra Granik knows her subject matter and uses the harsh landscape to set her main character up beautifully. As Ree searches for her father, she uncovers layer after layer of secrecy and gets wrapped up in the unwritten rules of a drug society. Lawrence brings perfect balance to Ree. She is strengthened and prematurely hardened by her time as the bread winner and her determination is mixed with the hint of naivety that even the most world weary 17 year old would still exhibit. It is, for my money, the best female performance of the year. Her supporting actors all take on the attitudes, behaviors, and speech of an Ozark meth community with brilliance. Particular attention should be paid to John Hawkes ("Deadwood") whose turn as local enforcer Teardrop is magnificent. Hawkes (along with Dillahunt) is one of my very favorite character actors; a man who takes his craft extremely seriously and deeply invests himself in his character no matter how small the role. Teardrop would undoubtedly steal the show from Ree were Lawrence's performance not so strong. All in all this is a seriously depressing, dark film that is hard to watch. Still, however, it is exceedingly worthwhile and significant and should play a big part in Award Season this year.