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Winter in hard-scrabble upstate New York. Irene is working class, a mother of two boys, and a user of cocaine. She gets into trouble and checks into a rehab program where she meets Bob, a nurse. After she goes home to her husband and returns to her job as a grocery checker, she stays in touch with Bob and the intimations of an affair begin. By now, she's changed jobs, cleaning houses with her friend Lucy. The temptations of drugs are close at hand. Can she handle sobriety? What about Bob? Written by
A thoroughly compelling film, poignant and full of pathos
"Down to the Bone", Debra Granik's first effort at Directing a feature film, deals with the issue of drug addiction without making any moral judgments. Ms. Granik's director style is clearly influenced by Cinema Verite, and embodies some neo-realist elements. The film follows the protagonist, Irene (powerfully played by Vera Farmiga), as her cocaine habit begins to wreak havoc in her life. Amidst the bleakness and despair of her life, Irene still struggles to hold down her job, and keep her family together. Naturally, things begin to fall apart--but even as they do, she has a chance meeting with Bob (Hugh Dillon), which presages the relationship will later become the outlet for Irene from her dreary and disquieting domestic life. After Irene tries to spend her kid's birthday money on drugs, she has a moment of epiphany, and decides to check herself into a rehab clinic. It is there that she re-encounters Bob, who works as a male nurse. A former junkie, Bob is able to both sympathize and empathize with Irene's withdrawal symptoms, and soon it becomes manifest that there is a mutual attraction between them. After some fits and starts, this blossoms into a romance. The affair is depicted without sentimentality or judgment, and there is much verisimilitude in the various awkward moments that occurs as
both Irene and Bob make the choice to proceed despite the risks. Just when it looks as though Bob and Irene will live happily ever after, Bob relapses to his heroin habit. More out of pique than curiosity, Irene joins him. When they get busted with possession, Irene faces a crossroads. She still loves Bob, but can she afford to keep him in her life? The cinematography in the film helps to define the stylist niche. The travails of living in upstate New York during the depths of Winter are made manifest. There are various shades of gray and blue so bleak that there is a chilling beauty to the scenery. At other times, the camera pans over the detritus of America's consumerist society, and vapid patriotism. The film touches many dissonant notes, yet does not become cacophonous. Ultimately the viewer is left with more questions than answers. This, of course, is in marked contrast to the standard Hollywood fare, where all off the loose ends are magically tied together in the last five minutes. This film marks a promising debut to Ms. Granik's feature film Directorial career, and Independent Film aficionados should eagerly await her next effort.
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