Winner of the prestigious Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Debra Granik's WINTER'S BONE has quickly become one of the critics' darlings among the film festival circuits. On the outlook, WINTER'S BONE looks almost identical like the Coen brothers' award-winning FARGO (1995). Just like Coen brothers' authentic look of their hometown Minnesota, Granik portrays the rarely-filmed Ozark Mountains by successfully capturing a rural community filled with addicts, liars, lowlifes and innocents caught in a web of poverty and deception. Raw and unsentimental in its portrayal, it is no doubt that Granik creates a indie motion picture worthy all the special mention. But at the same time, the movie is also somewhat overrated. All the authenticity aside, the movie proves to be painfully slow-moving for its own good and there are times it's questionable that WINTER'S BONE is hardly qualifies as one of the best movies of the year.
We are introduced to a tough-willed but vulnerable protagonist, 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) who faced with an awful situation of caring for her nearly catatonic mother (Valerie Richards), young brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson). When a local authority threatens to take over their house following from the bond her meth-cooking father has signed in the first place, Ree is given short notice to locate his missing father or else. Vowing to track her father down, she journeys across the mountains while gradually meeting a range of threatening peoples determined to keep their criminal activities a secret. Nobody seems to be opening their mouth about anything regarding about her missing father. Not even her drug-induced and hot-tempered uncle, Teardrop (John Hawkes) who is at first skeptical to offer any kind of help but gradually given her a hand in the end.
As an investigative crime drama, there's hardly any immediate thrills to be found here as everything moves at a leisure pace. The only time that the movie starts to feel alive is when Teardrop finally agrees to help Ree out, but really, Granik isn't particularly to create a stirring drama other than depicting an authentic lived-in quality remain best seen for some of the best performances of the year.
Relative newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, who has previously proven her amazing acting worth in the little-seen 2009's THE BURNING PLAIN, lands another breakthrough performance as the tormented Ree Dolly. Her naturalistic performance is especially stunning enough to watch for. She is paired equally well with the underrated John Hawkes, who also excels with his work here. His wired and no-nonsense persona is definitely a disturbing force to be reckoned for, particularly in a memorable scene where he is ballsy enough to threaten the local sheriff when he and Ree are being stopped at the highway.