After moving with her mother to a small town, a teenager finds that an accident happened in the house at the end of the street. Things get more complicated when she befriends a boy who was the only survivor of the accident.
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After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
David O. Russell
Robert De Niro
With an absent father and a withdrawn and depressed mother, 17 year-old Ree Dolly keeps her family together in a dirt poor rural area. She's taken aback however when the local Sheriff tells her that her father put up their house as collateral for his bail and unless he shows up for his trial in a week's time, they will lose it all. She knows her father is involved in the local drug trade and manufactures crystal meth, but everywhere she goes the message is the same: stay out of it and stop poking your nose in other people's business. She refuses to listen, even after her father's brother, Teardrop, tells her he's probably been killed. She pushes on, putting her own life in danger, for the sake of her family until the truth, or enough of it, is revealed. Written by
Just back from seeing this at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and at the Q&A afterwards, the director, Debra Granik (refreshingly eloquent and well beyond the usual wanting to thank the world and his wife for being here at EIFF) described her film's subject matter as 'hard scrabble'. Although she wasn't referring to a Russian Roulette version of the popular literacy board game (now there's an idea for a film...), it was an evocative description of the tough slice of backwater American life served up here. The basic storyline a teenagers plight to save her dependent family from imminent homelessness because of the actions of an errant and now-absent father felt both authentic and compelling, as did the way the local community closed in around her, meting out both violence and support in equal measure.
Using grey and oppressive colour tones, the entire film is shot in a bleak wooded landscape, where the grizzle-bearded men all look like they've just left the set of 'Southern Comfort', and the straggle-haired, world-weary lined faces of the women add to the unspoken sense of the harsh reality of life here. I doubt they see many tourists in this neck of the woods, and at the same time, the film steers well clear of the 'and if they did, they'd probably eat them' stereotype. I liked the sparse and effective use of bluegrass-folky-type music, which cut through, and gave some relief to, an otherwise fairly unremitting sense of hopelessness.
Although the subject matter is an uncompromising reality-check to much of the superficial Hollywood drivel that fills our multiplexes, this is not a hard watch. At its' heart, it's a good story, well-told, with excellent central performances (particularly John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence) and an open-hearted sense of the local community here, in spite of their bread-line existence. 7/10.
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