Seventeen-year-old “Ree Dolly” (Jennifer Lawrence) is searching for her father. Born into an insular criminal world totally foreign to most of us, Ree doesn’t know everything, but she knows a great deal more than we do, and it’s our job to catch up.

Like The Godfather Saga, Winter’s Bone transcends genre rules and creates indelible characters with great mythic resonance. But in Winter’s Bone, we’re following a girl’s journey to womanhood, therefore women, not men, are always in the foreground.

Winter’s Bone is based on a 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell. In this case, the filmmakers (director Debra Granik and her writing partner Anne Rosellini) have achieved the near impossible, creating a work of art totally synergistic with its source. Yes, reading Winter’s Bone in novel form enhances the cinematic experience, but watching Winter’s Bone on screen also enhances the literary experience. I doubt I’ll see a better film this summer; maybe I won’t see a better film all year! (JLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

Seventeen-year-old “Ree Dolly” (Jennifer Lawrence) is searching for her father Jessup. At first she’s looking with a weary air of resignation. After all, this is a man who has left her alone, time and again, to care for a mentally ill mother and two young siblings. But something is different now; Ree can sense it even if it takes her a while to put all the pieces together.

The characters in Winter’s Bone come from Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 source novel, adapted for the screen by director Debra Granik and her writing partner Anne Rosellini. Granik and Rosellini tell the story completely from Ree’s point of view, the POV of someone born into an insular criminal world totally foreign to Granik and most of her viewers. Ree doesn’t know everything, but she knows a great deal more than we do, and it’s our job to catch up.

Cinematographer Michael McDonough filmed every scene on location with new digital RED, softening the harsh landscapes with sun-dappled trees, clouds of smoke, and crusts of frost. The people all have a mythic resonance, and Granik embellishes their spare dialogue with twangy music (including vocals by folklorist Marideth Sisco) on the soundtrack. The result is a film that works equally well in two dimensions: it has the dreamlike quality of a classic fairytale (like Little Red Riding Hood, Ree often trudges alone through dark forests), but it also feels totally true to its own specific place and time (the Ozark hills of Southwest Missouri where methamphetamines—also called “crank” and “crystal meth”—are the current drugs of choice).

Although the criminal element provides narrative drive, it’s really just a hook to draw us into Ree’s world. Faced with troubles like those that plague “Michael Corleone” (Al Pacino) in The Godfather, Part I, Ree will never find a way to reconcile family love with the dictates of her own troubled conscience. Both Vito Corleone and Jessup Dolly courted their fate; Ree knows this, just as Michael does, but that only makes things more painful for both of them.

The Godfather Saga, like all the best crime dramas, transcended genre rules and placed plot in service to character. In this case too, Ree Dolly is on an epic American journey. But in Winter’s Bone, we’re following a girl, therefore women, not men, are always in the foreground.

Ree knows full well there are some places women should never go; she goes anyway. And women see her coming, opening their doors to her before she can knock. “Ain’t you got no men could do this?” asks “Merab” (Dale Dickey) wife of the stony patriarch Thump Milton. “No, ma’am, I don’t.”

Every woman she meets implicitly understands Ree’s predicament, and shares tiny new slivers of information. Neighbor “Sonya” (Shelley Waggener) brings food and other provisions; best friend “Gail” (Lauren Sweetser) adds car keys. Thump’s granddaughter “Megan” (Casey MacLaren) provides physical protection when Ree goes to see Jessup’s mean-eyed buddy; Jessup’s girlfriend “April” tells what she’s seen firsthand. Even Merab finally uses her power as Thump’s wife on Ree’s behalf. With their wind at her back, Ree presses on until she has answers as well as the physical evidence required to make her hard-won knowledge stick.

Meanwhile their men, drug-fueled and reckless, posture and preen. Early on Ree thinks she can depend on her “Uncle Teardrop” (John Hawkes), but he wants none of it. When his girlfriend “Victoria” (Cinnamon Schultz) tries to intercede, Teardrop barks at her: “I said shut up once already, with my mouth.” But Ree’s persistence draws Teardrop back like a moth to the flame. When Victoria mouths off in front of Ree, that’s merely a private embarrassment, but Ree bloodied and bruised is a public humiliation, so Teardrop swoops in like an avenging angel, bringing them both closer to death than to answers. Sitting in the audience, we can see that volatile Uncle Teardrop is as doomed as Michael Corleone’s brother “Sonny” (James Caan). Ree sees this too.

Dangers in the frigid world outside are counterpointed with intimate scenes of a surprisingly warm domestic life. Brother “Sonny” (Isaiah Stone) and sister “Ashlee” (Ashlee Thompson) follow Ree’s every move with their eyes and bundle against her like pups whenever she slows down. Mother “Connie” (Valerie Richards), unable to fill a parental role, has become a third dependent, so Ree cares for her tenderly, brushing her hair and keeping her close to the stove. Drawing strength from fond memories, Ree shows her young siblings photographs of Connie, and this helps them stay bonded as a cohesive unit: “I’d get lost without the weight of you two on my back.” says Ree, and it’s true.

As the story moves forward, Ree encounters three adult men on the right side of the law (Garret Dillahunt as a sheriff, Tate Taylor as a bail bondsman, and Russell Schalk as an army recruiter), all of whom are heavier and more stolid in their bulk than scrawny meth-heads like Uncle Teardrop and Little Arthur. In her current circumstances, Rhee must do everything possible to keep men like these at the periphery of her world. But by giving them all a padded virility, Granik shows us a light at the end of the tunnel. Ree will continue to gravitate towards their world not only for her personal safety but because she already knows her brother Sonny has no future otherwise. (“Sonny,” can that name be a mere coincidence?)

For decades now, Parts One & Two of The Godfather Saga have been considered masterpieces of world cinema. Can Winter’s Bone stand up to this comparison? Consider this: The release of The Godfather, Part I in 1973 made stars of hitherto unknown actors like Al Pacino and James Caan, and it resurrected Marlon Brando’s career. Winter’s Bone is also perfectly cast, and I predict that, come December, Jennifer Lawrence (“Ree”) and John Hawkes (“Uncle Teardrop”) will both find places on Oscar short-lists. If I ruled the world, Dale Dickey (“Merab”) would be on those lists too.

Regular readers already know that I follow a rigid rule when reviewing adaptations: I always try to see the film first. When I enter the theatre to see a film for the first time, I want my mind to be the cleanest possible slate, but once I decide to write a full review, I read background materials and then see the film a second time before completing my review. I do NOT believe the conventional wisdom that a source book is always better than a film. In fact I have written several reviews in which I argue that the film is actually better than its source book. But more important than compare & contrast, I believe that books and films are different aesthetic experiences subject to different rules, and filmmakers must always have full latitude to make cinematically-significant decisions.

All that said, I am delighted to report that in this case, author and filmmaker have done the near impossible: created works of arts that are completely parallel and totally synergistic. Reading Winter’s Bone in novel form enhances the cinematic experience, and watching Winter’s Bone on screen enhances the literary experience.

I urge you to share this journey with Ree. I think if you do, you’ll be richly rewarded. Is this a violent story? Sometimes, yes. But as Ree says to Sonny: “There’ stuff you’re just gonna haveta get over being scared of.” Me, I doubt I’ll see a better film this summer; maybe I won’t see a better film all year!

© Jan Lisa Huttner (6/24/10) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Jennifer Lawrence as “Ree.”

Middle Photo: Jennifer Lawrence as “Ree.”

Bottom Photo: Isaiah Stone as “Sonny,” Jennifer Lawrence as “Ree,” and Ashlee Thompson as “Ashlee.”

Photo Credits: Sebastian Mlynarski


  1. Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  2. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed
    to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider worries that they just do not know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also
    defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take
    a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  3. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem
    to be running off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser
    compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the problem solved soon. Thanks

  4. Hi there, I discovered your website by means of Google even as searching
    for a comparable matter, your web site got here up, it appears to be like great.

    I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    Hello there, just turned into alert to your weblog thru Google, and located that it’s really informative.
    I’m going to be careful for brussels. I’ll appreciate for those who
    proceed this in future. Many other people will be benefited from your writing.

  5. Having read this I thought it was very informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this
    content together. I once again find myself
    spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments.

    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  6. I got this web page from my buddy who told me regarding this web site and now this time I
    am visiting this site and reading very informative articles or reviews at this place.

  7. What i don’t realize is in truth how you’re no longer actually a lot more neatly-favored than you might be
    now. You are very intelligent. You understand therefore considerably in the case of this
    subject, produced me personally believe it from a lot of varied angles.
    Its like women and men don’t seem to be fascinated
    except it’s something to do with Girl gaga! Your personal stuffs
    great. At all times care for it up!

  8. I’m no longer certain where you’re getting your
    information, but great topic. I must spend a while studying much more
    or figuring out more. Thanks for wonderful information I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.

  9. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same
    comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Many thanks!

  10. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.

    I’m quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  11. Hi I am so delighted I found your website, I really found you by accident, while
    I was looking on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like
    to say thanks a lot for a incredible post and a all round
    entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have
    time to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so
    when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the awesome b.

  12. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation but I
    in finding this matter to be really one thing that I think I’d never understand.
    It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad
    for me. I am having a look forward for your next submit, I will try to get the hold
    of it!

  13. Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover somebody that really
    knows what they’re discussing on the internet. You certainly
    know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    A lot more people ought to look at this and
    understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.

  14. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your website provided us with valuable information to work
    on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  15. I always used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of internet thus from now I am using net
    for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  16. I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of
    space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this website.
    Studying this info So i’m satisfied to express that I have an incredibly just right uncanny feeling I discovered exactly what I needed.
    I so much indisputably will make sure to
    do not overlook this website and give it a look regularly.

  17. Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could
    find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same
    blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding
    one? Thanks a lot!

  18. Whats up very nice site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Wonderful ..
    I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also?
    I’m glad to seek out a lot of useful info here
    in the post, we’d like work out more strategies
    in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  19. Amazing blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any suggestions? Kudos!

  20. Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking a few minutes
    and actual effort to make a superb article…
    but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and don’t seem
    to get anything done.

  21. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of
    this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very
    difficult to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and appearance.
    I must say you’ve done a very good job with this.
    In addition, the blog loads very quick for me on Safari.
    Excellent Blog!

  22. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website so i got here
    to return the favor?.I’m attempting to find
    things to enhance my site!I suppose its good enough to
    make use of a few of your concepts!!

  23. Everything composed made a great deal of sense.
    But, think about this, what if you were to create a awesome headline?
    I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your blog, but
    what if you added something that grabbed a person’s attention? I mean WINTER’S BONE – FF2 Media is kinda vanilla.

    You might glance at Yahoo’s home page and watch how they create article titles to grab people
    interested. You might try adding a video or a related pic or two to grab people interested about everything’ve got to say.
    In my opinion, it might make your website
    a little livelier.

  24. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever
    run into any internet browser compatibility problems?
    A couple of my blog readers have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great
    in Opera. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  25. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break.
    I love the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.

    I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my phone
    .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, very good blog!

  26. I needed to thank you for this wonderful read!!

    I certainly loved every little bit of it. I’ve got you book marked
    to look at new things you post…

  27. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well
    written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read
    more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.
    I’ll certainly comeback.

  28. Just want to say your article is as astounding.

    The clearness to your post is simply spectacular and that i could suppose you’re knowledgeable in this
    subject. Fine together with your permission let me to snatch your RSS feed to keep updated with imminent post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  29. Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative.
    I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you continue
    this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing.

  30. Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start.

    Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Many thanks

  31. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems
    as though you relied on the video to make your point.

    You clearly know what youre talking about, why
    waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site
    when you could be giving us something enlightening
    to read?

  32. great post, very informative. I ponder why the opposite specialists of this sector do not realize this.

    You must continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve
    a huge readers’ base already!

  33. Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply
    placing the other person’s weblog link on your page at
    appropriate place and other person will also do similar for you.

  34. Great site you have here but I was wanting to know if
    you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get
    responses from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

  35. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with
    hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing a few months
    of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to stop hackers?

  36. Thanks for another informative web site. Where else
    could I am getting that kind of info written in such an ideal manner?
    I have a mission that I’m simply now operating on, and I have been on the glance out for such info.

  37. I’m now not certain where you are getting your info, however
    great topic. I needs to spend a while learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for great info I was in search of this info for my mission.

  38. Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most
    blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  39. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a
    pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% positive.
    Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  40. Hello there I am so thrilled I found your blog, I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Digg for something
    else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a remarkable post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the
    moment but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so
    when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the great work.

  41. I simply could not depart your website prior to suggesting that I actually loved the usual info an individual
    supply in your guests? Is going to be back steadily to inspect new posts

  42. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of
    plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of
    completely unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it looks
    like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know
    any methods to help stop content from being stolen? I’d really
    appreciate it.

  43. Hello! I’ve been reading your site for a long time now and finally got
    the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita
    Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

  44. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your site provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job
    and our whole community will be grateful to

  45. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed
    to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of.

    I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider
    worries that they plainly do not know about.

    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing
    without having side effect , people could take a signal.

    Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  46. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog!
    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with my
    Facebook group. Chat soon!

  47. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end
    or if it’s the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  48. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Extremely useful information specially the last part :
    ) I care for such info much. I was looking
    for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  49. I absolutely love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you create this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my very
    own site and would like to know where you got this from or
    just what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

Leave a Reply to Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *