Hidden deeply in the woods of southern Missouri there is a whole different world that most people don’t know about. This world is a place where the few sparsely scattered ramshackle houses are drug dens for people cooking up crystal meth. Most of your neighbors are likely to be related to you in some way (and cooking meth) and shooting squirrels when their meth business fails to provide them with enough meat in the grim Missouri winters. Also, they all look like they directly came from the “Faces of Meth” posters.
This is life as Ree Dolly knows it. As her mother is unable to take care of the children, the 17-year-old girl has to make a living for herself and her two younger siblings. Into the bargain, her meth-cooking father has posted their shabby home as bail bond and not turned up at court. Ree desperately has to find her father –or prove that he’s dead. Unfortunately, her fellow Ozark inhabitants are less than helpful with her pursuit -to be precise, she can be lucky if she only gets insults thrown at her. There seems to be a hillbilly code of conduct that keeps her dearest inbred rednecks’ mouths shut.
To say that Ree is a tough cookie would not do the film justice. The girl must either be completely jaded or a born survivor. She has her mind set on her mission and neither the bleak Missouri nature, the poverty of her family and the total lack of perspective in her future, nor the cruel treatment of her less than talkative fellow country bumpkins can stop her. One can hardly comprehend where Ree takes her strength from when facing the hopelessness of her life. Without spoiling the end for you, I can warn those of you who are hoping for a soppy Disney-like family reunion. It’s not going to happen. Winter’s Bone is not a feel good-movie in the classical sense. When the only member of the family that is willing to help you is called Teardrop and hooked on meth, you have low expectations in life. The film however, exceeds even high expectations… you might leave the cinema shuddering and trying to shrug off the feeling of cold mist and dirt of the Missouri forests because of its scary intensity.
The only reason why this film did not win any of the four Academy Awards it was nominated for is probably the brutality, the dirt, the cragginess of it. It’s not easy to see why Ree would want to defend her dirty little home, the lack of prospects instead of just giving her siblings into foster care. Blood really seems to be thicker than water and life in the Ozarks amongst your quasi-outlaw relatives more desirable than a more prosperous life somewhere else.