Not often enough do films emerge from the Sundance Film Festival to receive even one nod from the Academy, let alone four. If you don’t remember the 2010 Oscars, you may recall the name Jennifer Lawrence…
And if you don’t, well, Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, the lead in the recently released Hunger Games. But her first noteworthy performance comes as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone. (She also stars in Like Crazy, another notable independent (Sundance) film that came out in 2011 – needless to say, she’s had a great couple of years.)
Very different films on the surface, Lawrence’s role in Winter’s Bone is not all that different from Hunger Games. In both she plays a teenager fighting for her own survival and for the survival of something extending beyond herself. She becomes an unlikely, if not reluctant, and certainly ill-equipped hero: of Panem in the Hunger Games and of Sonny and Ashlee (her younger brother and sister) in Winter’s Bone.
Telling the dark story of poverty, drugs, and violence, various scenes of Winter’s Bone will send more than a shiver down your spine. And as it speaks to the patriarchy of backcountry culture (set in the Ozarks), this film also proves interesting through the lens of feminism.
More deeply (and more personally) I think this film tells the story of family. Who am I? Not defined, as our modern culture may tell us, by my own isolated identity, but defined by my roots. Who am I in the context of the history, geography, professions, passions, and culture of those who came before me? How do I interpret and understand myself as a part of those markers? Where do I fit and how do I act, within a life, within a story, that’s bigger than just me?
Many of the ‘actors’ in the film aren’t actors at all – they are playing themselves in their real lives. As a result the characters and the scenes carry the weight of reality. As you watch, notice and appreciate the intentionality and depth of a story well told.