By Kevin Kelly (reprinted from 2/2/2010 -- Sundance Film Festival)
"Redneck" or "country noir" isn't anything new. Just look at Blood Simple and No Country For Old Men as examples. But when you replace the grizzled detective or outdated lawman with a 17-year-old girl trying to take care of her family, that's where things swing wildly off course in Winter's Bone. Jennifer Lawrence previously impressed in Lori Petty's autobiographical film The Poker House, and she turns in an incredibly powerful performance in this movie, directed by Debra Granik and based on Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name, that explores the dark nature of family and secrets in the Ozark Mountains. It won both the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic category and the Waldo Salt screenwriting award, and is well-deserving of both.
Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is busy trying to take care of her younger brother and sister, her nearly catatonic mother, and a bevy of stray cats and dogs in a ramshackle cabin out in the boondocks when she's visited by the sheriff who has some unsettling news: Her father has put up both the land and the house for his bond for cooking crystal meth, and if he doesn't show up for his court date, they'll lose everything. So Ree has to find him before the law does, or before some of the other unsavory characters that live in this no man's land.