Best Foreign Film of 2010: Winter's Bone

Based solely on the act of watching Debra Granik's excellent Winter's Bone I've decided to add Missouri to the list of places I will never ever go, not even on a bet. That makes two this year, the Ozarks and the area between Scotland and France where the Red Riding trilogy is set... I think it's called “England”, but have to check with Tom to confirm that.

Winter's Bone is a stellar film, an intensely bleak mystery set amongst toothless Missourian meth-heads and abandoned trailer homes. The story is based on Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name and stars Jennifer Lawrence in what must rank as the performance of the year. She is never short of brilliant throughout. The story follows dirt-poor 17-year-old Ree Dolly (played with quiet desperation and defiant pride by the aforementioned Lawrence) and her search for her meth-cooking daddy Jessup. Seems old Jessup missed a court date and has left his family in a bind. He used the family homestead to cover his bail and it's about to be turned over to the friendly neighbourhood bail-bonding folks. Left in charge of her two young siblings and nearly-catatonic, batshit-kooky mother, Ree has no choice but track down dear old dad to keep a roof over their heads. The search for Jessup leads Ree from one bad-ass Ozark outlaw to another, each a little bit creepier than the last.

The subculture of this region is simply unimaginable and to catch a glimpse inside it is a real eye-opener. It makes the east end look like Paris (the nice part of Paris, that is). Donna had no idea what to make of any of it. It was simply too foreign a world for her to get her head around. I had rather the opposite reaction to Winter's Bone. I kinda dug the anarchy and weird social order that sprang from this godforsaken place. I mean I'm not going to fry up squirrel for dinner anytime soon (depending, that is, on how fucking long this Roncesvalles construction lasts), but I must admit that the Lord of the Flies pecking order in Winter's Bone seemed about right. The film itself is just about perfect.

A top-5 ranked movie for me this year.



Andrew said...

This flick is definitely the most under the radar film of the year. It deserves a huge audience and an Oscar nod for the screenplay. One of my top five for certain.

Withnail said...

I watched this film two nights ago and haven't let it go quite yet. I too enjoyed (that really isn't the right word but..) the glimpse into this world. What this film achieves on a very high level is the creation of this, what feels like, a post-apocalyptic war zone of near zombies, and capturing the bleakness of a true desperation that is beyond anything comparable to anything that I have seen, even in Central America. Kirsten's comment after watching this film was: "I mean we're poor, but fuck!"
But what is so frightening is these... creatures, shall we say, these meth induced freak shows, feel so goddamn real that they really are scary. The subtly of how Ree's heroin-like journey is paced and portrayed is damn near perfect with bursts of unimaginable cruelty and anxiety, followed by long desolate shots where you just don't know what the hell could happen next.
And as far as twenty year old Jennifer Lawrence's performance, it is not even oscar worthy. If she gets nominated I'll be so fucking pissed off, it is too good. It has the simplicity and openness that great actors strive for their entire lives. The performance has the perceptiveness and finespun quality of great actors like Gabriel Byrne and William Hurt (when he's at his best as in Smoke).
This film is also in my top five of the year.