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Winter's Bone
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Reviews & Ratings for
Winter's Bone More at IMDbPro »

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257 out of 333 people found the following review useful:

Haunting, Grim, but somehow Optimistic

10/10
Author: Grey Gardens from United States
8 August 2010

Winter's Bone is about a 17 year old girl name Rolly Dee set out to find her father who put their house for his bailbond and then vanishes. If she doesn't find him, her family will be turned out to the Ozarks. Challenging her outlaw kin's code of silence and risking her life, Ree hacks through the lies, evasions and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to piece together the truth.

Let me, just begin by saying this movie is perfectly acted. Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar Worthy performance as Rolly Dee. I was surprised how excellent she was, because I was sceptical of her in the "The Bill Engvall" show. But she turned me to a believer and boy, she can REALLY act. Her performance actually surpasses some of Meryl Streep's performances. Hopefully the Academy will recognize her and give an Oscar nomination or maybe even a win! The film is well directed by Debra Granik and is easily her best work yet. She definitely has potential to become the "new" Kathryn Bigelow. Anyways the film is really bleak and powerful, but it still has a tone of hopeful in it. Very interesting and mesmerizing movie to watch. It is a bit slow at times, but trust me it never gets boring or dull.

10/10 Highly recommended.

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182 out of 209 people found the following review useful:

There'd better be some Oscar nominations coming for this little gem.

8/10
Author: lewiskendell from United States
14 November 2010

"But I can't forever carry them kids and my mom, not without that house."

Winter's Bone is a stark, almost documentary-like movie about a poor teenage girl named Ree in the Ozarks who supports her near-catatonic mother and two younger siblings during her meth-cooking father's many brushes with the law. When he disappears before a court date and the family's home is at risk if he doesn't show up, Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) investigates amongst the locals to find out where he might be. But, some people don't like the questions she's asking, and her life may be at risk, along with her family home. 

The plain, unobtrusive way that the camera observes events really helped draw me into the movie, to the point where I honestly forgot that I was watching a movie, at all. This effect was heightened by some excellent performances; especially from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes (Teardrop). Lawrence had a star-making (and award worthy) performance, in my opinion. Ree is probably my favorite movie character of the year (well, perhaps next to Hit Girl), and Lawrence plays her with a realism and stubborn toughness that makes you believe that this seventeen year-old girl wouldn't wilt under the kind of circumstances that would overwhelm most adults. Her love for her family seems completely genuine, and there's never a word or a glance where she seems like she's "acting".  It's all very natural, and I was beyond impressed.

The plot was quite tense and engrossing, as Ree pursues the mystery of where her father is with a dogged intensity, despite the fact that it leads her into some very dangerous (and violent) situations. The sparse, beautiful winter settings are a perfect backdrop for the story. It's been a while since I've seen a movie that does as good a job as this one in communicating a sense of place.

Winter's Bone may not be for everyone, though. There are no shoot-outs or florid romantic scenes. The moments of happiness are small, fleeting, and poignant; like a gift of generosity from a neighbor who knows you're in need, or the quiet assurances of an older sister to her younger siblings. In Winter's Bone, our world is never in danger...but one family's certainly is. I liked it the movie the first time around, liked it even more the second, and heartily recommend it, if you're interested.

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147 out of 193 people found the following review useful:

A rich, satisfying film

9/10
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
27 June 2010

It is quite astonishing what people are capable of when their survival or way of life is threatened. In those moments, they are somehow able to employ a level of courage, perseverance, and high intention that they never knew they had. Such is the case for young Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) in Debra Granik's The Winter's Bone, winner of the Jury Prize for dramatic competition as well as the Waldo Salt Screen writing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Newcomer Lawrence, a Kentucky native, is completely convincing as the 17-year-old Ree who has endured much in her brief lifetime and has plenty of obstacles yet to overcome. Living in poverty in a small house in the rural Missouri Ozarks, near the Arkansas border, she has to cook, chop wood and do whatever is necessary to care for her twelve-year old brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and her six-year old sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson) as well as look after her mother who is catatonic.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell and co-written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, The Winter's Bone depicts how young Ree's life is changed when the local sheriff informs her that her dad, Jessup, on the run after being arrested for "cooking" methamphetamines, has put the family's house up as bond and that, unless he is found and convinced to turn himself in, Ree's family will lose their house. Insisting to the sheriff that she will find him, the young girl begins a search among friends, family members, distant relatives, and the community of small-time crooks, dope dealers, and kingpins that dominate the male-dominated rural society. No one wants to talk and Ree is met with silence, hostility, and even violence. One neighbor tells her that her questioning is, "a real good way to end up et by hogs." When someone asks her, "Ain't you got no men folk to do this?" the answer is an emphatic "no." (at times, the film seems to be challenging Juno for the most quirky one-liners).

Ree's main antagonists are her father's terrifying older brother Teardrop, played by John Hawkes, and Merab (Dale Dickey), the wife of Thump Milton, one of the local bosses. The performance by Dickey conveys an overbearing sense of intimidation that is both real and frightening. As Ree navigates through this hostile environment, we grow to admire her determination and her willingness to confront danger in order to protect her siblings. Winter's Bone is a film about poverty and desperation but it never exploits its characters or engages in manipulation or sentimentality. Though it can be hard to watch at times, it is not as some critics have said "poverty porn." There are lighter moments as well that include authentic Ozark folk music sung by Marideth Sisco and scenes of Ree teaching her brother and sister to spell, count, and perhaps more important for survival, how to shoot a rifle. She also tells her younger brother about the culture in which they live saying "Never ask for what ought to be offered."

Though I was riveted by the unfolding story, perhaps because of the film's high degree of stylization, I stopped short of full emotional involvement and was often conscious of the fact that I was watching a movie. Yet The Winter's Bone is a rich, satisfying film that more than deserves the accolades it has been receiving. Though it is stylized, it has an authenticity derived from using local residents as actors and from the director having immersed herself in the culture for two years before shooting the film. Jennifer Lawrence conveys a stoic and hard-edged individual, yet one with integrity who has somehow avoided getting sucked into the soul destructive way of life that seems to be endemic to the area. In Ree, Granik has created one of the strongest female characters in cinema in memory, one who, by her sheer will, suggests what could be accomplished if all of us could live each day as if our life depended on it.

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174 out of 256 people found the following review useful:

Neo noir, with a twist of white trash.

10/10
Author: dwight ward from United States
1 February 2010

This shockingly diverse film offers numerous delights to the viewer. Beginning with simple title credits, and ending in a beautiful display of foliage. Winter's Bone will grab your attention and never let go.

Based on a novel of the same name, it's the story of a seventeen year old girl who is searching for her missing father. Sound like something you've seen before? Well it's not! The basic premise surrounds itself with remarkably new idea's and situation's. A feeling of noir envelopes the screen and each character and action leads you on a most enjoyable journey. The Actor's and more importantly Actress, are dug so deep into their characters that there isn't a single fake second.

Debra Granik does an amazing job in the director/screenwriter role. Her vision entangles the story together and propels it forward to the unforgettable climax. The world that is shown through this film is one i was unfamiliar with, but after seeing it all i can think about is the life those characters lead. And how different it is from my own.

A film that deserved the grand jury award at Sundance and one which I plan to see again. Winter's Bone is a film for everyone, be you young, old, or in the middle. Just walk into the cinema with an empty plate and you will leave filled.

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128 out of 176 people found the following review useful:

Oscar material

10/10
Author: trescher from United States
15 April 2010

This is an excellent film, the casting was perfect and, filmed on location in the Ozarks, it's depiction of poor rural mountain life in the South was thoroughly authentic. In another generation, it was moonshine that put these people on the wrong side of the law. Today, it's methamphetamine and OxyContin. As the plot moves forward through this drug subculture, the pride, family loyalty, code of honor and toughness of the people are revealed. Three performances stand out. Jennifer Lawrence never hits a false note as Ree Dolly, the 17 year-old protagonist who takes care of her little brother and sister and her mentally disabled mother. She learns that her father, who cooks methamphetamine, had been arrested and put up their house and land for bail bond. If he doesn't show up for court, they will lose their house, and she must find him. John Hawkes, cast as her uncle, Teardrop, quietly develops his character from someone who is initially menacing and untrustworthy into a man you can faintly admire. And Dale Dickey, as Merab, manages to convey a woman who is tough, mean, capable of violence, yet also honest and reluctantly sympathetic to Ree.

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89 out of 112 people found the following review useful:

Bread and Butter

8/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
27 June 2010

Greetings again from the darkness. A double award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, this film is based on Daniel Woodrell's novel and is directed by Debra Granik. It's opening sequence slaps the viewer with the bleak unforgivingness of life in the backwoods of the Ozarks. This is land of people that time has passed by.

The basic premise of the story is that 17 year old Ree Dolly (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is responsible for raising her brother and sister and caring for her mentally-blank mother while maintaining a mostly positive outlook on the present and future. Reality strikes again when the local sheriff arrives to inform her that her missing, meth-lab running father has an upcoming court date. He used their land and house as collateral for his latest bond. If he fails to show, they will lose their home. Instead of breaking down, Ree pledges to find him and starts out on a hazardous journey, unlike we have seen on screen.

This community of mountain people are distrusting of outsiders, but stunningly, are just as paranoid around insiders and even family members. Their way of life seems to depend on pure independence, even though they all seemed intertwined in the same illegal activities and daily quest for survival. Some kind of odd code exists - ask nothing, give nothing and get rid of any obstacles.

The driving forces of the story are Ree and her constant hope and courage, and her bond to her dad's only brother, Teardrop played chillingly by John Hawkes. Teardrop tries to toughen up Ree and get her to accept her plight, while Ree constantly shows his there is reason to plow forward.

The film is very well written and the local filming brings a harsh reality that was crucial to the film's success. Additionally, I was stunned at the fierceness displayed by Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. Her performance reminded me of my first exposure to the talents of Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter) and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen). Talk about powerful and exciting ... what she did with this role vaults her immediately into a very small group of actresses who can carry a movie with their presence. I am anxiously awaiting her next appearance - a Jody Foster project.

I also want to mention the music in the film. The vocalist, Marideth Sisco, is also the vocalist in the living room band who makes an appearance in one scene. Her voice truly captures the balance of hope and acceptance of plight. This is not a movie for everyone, but it is fascinating and hardcore.

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91 out of 119 people found the following review useful:

An engrossing slice of backwoods American life

7/10
Author: miak from United Kingdom
20 June 2010

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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90 out of 128 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Genre Bender and Thematic Cauldron

10/10
Author: dalefried from United States
25 September 2010

Watching this film the first time you will see one of the most accessible, compelling, and almost entirely straight narrative films this year. As a film snob, I tend to like them more visually challenging and time bending. Nonetheless, I was entirely blown away in my first viewing and simply could not get this movie out of my mind for the rest of the film festival I was attending.

In quiet repose, the vapor trails coalesce around two things when you try to explain Winter's Bone to others. From the view of genre it goes everywhere: mystery, noir in gray tones, gangster, thriller, almost horror and a brilliant, stark family drama. Then there are the themes that rage quietly behind the scenes: hopelessness in poverty, good transcending almost demonic evil, an unbridled feminist treatise, nobility free poverty, drug culture ripping social fabric asunder, and family is your trump card for everything.

This really grasps you like a whirling dervish in a cauldron, so powerful it takes your thoughts so many places so quickly.

The source of all this is a startling story and screen rendering by one who may become a great young female director. The performances, likely coaxed by this great director, stun you silent.

Plus it contains possibly the greatest role model for the young ever put on film, performed in true star making brilliance if seen beyond the art houses where characters like me reside.

In the end, after five viewings, it stands as my favorite film seen since American Beauty, therefore placing it in my favorite ten all-time. Please see this before it shocks you when its name appears on year end awards lists.

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96 out of 153 people found the following review useful:

Shades of Deliverance, deja vu

8/10
Author: bobbobwhite from san ramon ca
21 June 2010

This film tells the sad story of inbred, poverty-stricken, Missouri Ozark hillbillies trying to scratch out a living on poor soil and even worse personal resources, so it was no wonder meth production was embraced as a life-changing profit center that had the illegal potential to change their lives for the better. Their poor lives before meth had a certain dignity in the hard struggle for survival in an uncaring world that had passed them by or never allowed them to catch up, either or both, but cheap and dangerous drug production leading to fast but risky money took these unfortunates down a road that surely few would have chosen if they had a chance beforehand to see any of the personal and social harm it created in a society already at great risk of decent survival. What great harm it did was shown and acted brilliantly, as it pushed these already at-risk people lower down the chain of life than before and surely even lower than the wild animals they had to kill for food.

A young girl of 17, seeming older than her years, beaten up and beaten down, wary of those around her but needing their help, and with 2 young siblings and a helpless mother to care for, she learned that her drug-making, drugged-out father disappeared and missed a court date for a drug arrest, and the most important task of her life then became finding her father before they lost their meager home to bondsmen, as that sorry home place was all they had in the world but it was home and she intended with all her heart and soul to do whatever it took to keep it and her family together. The acting throughout was appropriately serious to deadly, with hardly even a smile to be seen, and left us thankful as seldom before for whatever our own lives give us compared to those in the story.

Such a grim and foreboding task the daughter had, with imminent harm threatening around every corner she turned and behind every door on which she knocked, even those of relatives. Determination can get you far, but only so far unless you get a few breaks, and that long quest for a decent break was what kept viewer's eyes glued to the screen until it all played out in the end as could be expected in that dire situation.

Bleak, stark, harsh, mean, cruel...all those tough adjectives were present in full force throughout her search, but present also was her eternal fire of human spirit and family duty that would never quit. When actual survival is at stake, this story showed well that some of us truly can find the right stuff to survive when no better choices are possible.

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38 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

a merging of film-noir and neo-realism, with a big dosage of "white trash" in America

10/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
14 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Debra Granik doesn't compromise in Winter's Bone. Not for a moment does she let a character get an easy way out. Even by the story's end, when things seem to at least be stable and at peace, things are not entirely happy. How could they be? The story is set in rural Missouri, where at best people have a working car, and at worst, you see that burnt down Crystal-Meth house over yonder. What is so absorbing in Granik's film is not just the main character, the one character we have to stick with in order to navigate the dangerous and ugly backwoods folk (sort of a Redneck Mafia if you will), but the locations. A good lot of time is given to these winter locations, where broken down tractors, shooting squirrels, and mountain music performed in living rooms are common, not to mention the Meth cooked up every which way. We're transported to a place that many of us (i.e those of us who live in suburbs and cities) wouldn't want to go near. And yet, this is America, where good people have to struggle and the bad thrive on fear.

The story is something out of a 'noir' story: a 17 year old girl (Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout performance) is told by the local Sheriff (Garrett Dillahunt, who previously played 'the law' in No Country for Old Men) that her father is wanted, but also put up the house and assets for collateral, and that if he doesn't show- in one way or another, live or dead- the house will be taken away. Ree's mother is in a daze on medication, and she has two little siblings she has to take care of, so starts a search for her father. Nobody wants to help her really; her most sympathetic ally is her uncle, who doesn't know where his brother is, and doesn't much care (there's a great exchange at one point between the two: "You know, you've always scared me." "That's because you're smart," he says, eyes turned down), but everyone else is abrasive, and could at best care less and at worse tell her to get off the property... or else.

There's a pervading feeling of something really, really bad going on, which Ree can only slightly comprehend. She is smart, and resourceful, and teaches her little brother and sister to shoot, if nothing else for protection (that's the subtext anyway in shooting squirrels), but she's also not wanted, certainly not by the locals who she should count on but look at her, as Jessup Dolly's daughter, as a threat. More is revealed about what happened to him, and the sense of terror is really way up by the third act. Who knows what will happen to Ree or the kids, especially if Jessup isn't found, in one way or another. The discovery of Jessup, as the climax of the picture, is filmed in such a way that it is truly gruesome; I can't reveal it here, but it outranks most horror movies that only come close to the personal terror that is felt by the discovery.

Winter's Bone is bleak but not so much so that we leave the theater in all tears or total dread. There's some little moments of hope for Ruby and her siblings, and while her conflict with Thump Milton and his clan (aka Redneck Mob) leaves her scarred and more on her guard, and she knows to definitely never trust that Sheriff again, what makes it worthwhile is surviving the quest of it, the mystery. Nothing feels fabricated in the film- many of the actors come right from the region and are non-professionals- and this is reflected in the material. And for such a hard story, of a girl on her own with little resources and backup, there's some great talent here. Lawrence, as noted, should become very hot (that is a talent-to-see on the radar) from this film, where her Ree is the hero in more ways than one, but from her strength shows her vulnerability from time to time very well (there's a scene where she brings her mother out into the woods to ask her what she should do, tears in her eyes, and I couldn't recall a scene quite as powerful as it since Nicholson's Bobby Dupea had a similar scene in Five Easy Pieces).

The other actor who really shines here is John Hawkes. We've seen him in character parts from time to time (I first saw him in From Dusk till Dawn as a store clerk), and his character is given the most complexity of anyone. While it's arguable that Ree and the other backwoods folk are black-and-white in their morality (even when a woman character finally comes to help Ree in the third act it's by a lot of conditions- the aforementioned 'gruesome' scene), Teardrop is an unabashed drug addict and will most likely kill if he has to. But he's also compassionate in ways that matter, and Hawkes shows this gray area of the character with depth and wisdom; he doesn't make this guy a total hick (matter of fact no one in the movie is too over-the-top, just believable enough without being like 'Deliverance), but a torn man who has no real future but can be of help to Ree in this time of need. And he also gets an exceptional showdown scene with the Sheriff while in the front seat of his car that is among the best scenes this year in film.

This is the indie film that people love to talk about, the 'go see this' wonder that will probably barely play 100 or at most 200 screens, but lights up with drama and consequence more than most films you'll ever see. Or, to put it another way, it's what Sundance is good for: shining light on real independent product that is about something, or someone, and isn't tethered by Hollywood conventions.

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