Film Review: Winter's Bone [dir. Debra Granik; 2010]

Insular communities often make compelling subjects for films, but the greatness of Winter's Bone comes from much more than just a fortuitous choice of context. Set in the USA's unforgiving Ozark mountains, it tracks a young woman's attempt to keep a roof over her family's head which, because of prior events, means confronting the local equivalent of the Mafia. Featuring an intelligent, rock-steady performance from Jennifer Lawrence, every frame of this quiet movie smoulders with menace, increasing the tension until it seems to ooze out of the tips of the skeletal branches that are eternally hovering over the characters' heads. Similar in tone to Peter Strickland's must-see Katalin Varga (2009), it holds you in its icy grip from beginning to end and provides more proof that American cinema shouldn't be judged purely on the basis of a few summer blockbusters. It also features some of the best casting I've seen in months: the lines on these actors' faces are craggier than the landscape!


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