DePauw Film Studies Series: Bone-chilling thriller



On Tuesday the DePauw Film Studies Series resumed with the 2010 coming-of-age thriller “Winter’s Bone.” The film stars Jennifer Lawrence in her first major role, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey. Lawrence earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, Hawkes was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

The film, which is adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, is a story about a young woman named Ree Dolly, brilliantly brought to life by Lawrence, trying to save her family. Her mother is mentally ill, dad missing, and Ree is left to care for her twelve-year-old brother and six-year-old sister. Her missing father, who’d had previous run-ins with the law, is charged with cooking methamphetamines and his trial date is approaching. The father put the house up for bond, so if he did not show up for his trial the house would be taken, leaving Ree and her family homeless. This triggers Ree’s heroic adventure to find her dad to take him to court or prove his death. She is doing all of this while “attending” school and caring for her family.

Ree's uncle, the menacing Teardrop Dolly, is phenomenally played by Hawkes. He is Ree’s rock in this film, helping her when she is looking for help from anyone, giving moral and economic assistance to her and her family and is at the right places at the right times.

The film was expertly shot and written. The absences of pre-recorded music in the film amped up the suspense. It is very Cohen Brothers-esque, and is in the style of their film “No Country For Old Men.”

Lawrence’s performance in this film was spectacular, being it her first large role and her breakthrough one at that. She portrays the torment and the weariness of having to live with her sick mother, dealing with the absence of her meth-cooking father, and having to raise her siblings – from teaching them to cook and hunt to helping them with their schoolwork – perfectly.

The strength and will that Lawrence portrays in the character (a common characteristic in most of her roles) makes her someone that you are rooting for the entire film, hoping that everything will turn out sunny-side-up for her.

The setting of this story is hauntingly realistic. It is the type of setting where you could see it happening in any place in rural America, and that is the dark reality that the film is trying to convey. It puts into perspective how fragile things really are, from relationships with relatives to your entire livelihood.

The DePauw Film Studies series will continue at the Ashley Square Cinema on October 28 with “The Shining (1980),” November 4 with “Grand Budapest Hotel,” and December 2 with the critically acclaimed documentary “The Act of Killing.”