I’ve seen this film described as ‘hillbilly noir’ and while that doesn’t give us much of a clue to the drained-out colour of winter in the Ozark mountains, or the handheld visual style, it does indicate the nightmarish milieux portrayed. The world is one of patriarchy unfettered by any state, or feminine, discourse. Jennifer Lawrence’s lauded performance as Ree, who’s desperately trying to keep a roof over her younger siblings – and ailing mother’s – head, is the heart of this bleak film where decency is thin on the ground. This isn’t to say it’s a portrayal of ‘bad’ people, there are acts of human kindness throughout, but the world is dysfunctional because unrestrained, and miserable, male power holds sway.
A mention, also, for the brilliant John Hawkes – Ree’s dissolute but good uncle – who I suspect is one of the most under-rated actors of his generation. He combines a downtrodden mien with a charisimatic presence; no mean feat. Winter’s Bone is what the best of cinema is about as it takes us to places that exist but where we don’t want to go.