Seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) looks after her mentally ill mother, her twelve-year-old brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and her six-year-old sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson).
Every day, Ree makes sure her siblings eat, while teaching them basic survival skills like hunting and cooking. The family is very poor. Ree’s father, Jessup, has not been home for a long time and his whereabouts are unknown. He is out on bail following an arrest for manufacturing methamphetamine.
The sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) tells Ree that if her father does not show up for his court date, they will lose the house because it was put up as part of his bond. Ree sets out to find her father, following his trail into a world where meth use is common, violence is frequent, women are scared of their men, and people are bound by codes of loyalty and secrecy. She starts with her meth-addicted uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and continues on to more distant kin, eventually trying to talk to the local crime boss,
Thump Milton (William White). Milton refuses to see her; the only information Ree comes up with are warnings to leave the situation alone and stories that Jessup died in a meth lab fire or skipped town to avoid the trial.
When Jessup fails to appear for the trial, the bondsman comes looking for him and tells Ree that she will have about a week before the house and land are seized. Ree tells him that Jessup must be dead, because “Dollys don’t run.” He tells her that she will need to provide proof that her father is dead in order to avoid the bond’s being forfeited.
Aside from the down-home soundtrack, Winter’s Bone is not easy to watch. Its gritty realism never lets up. The characters look like they climbed from Dorothea Lange’s Depression and Dust Bowl images, only with a touch of meth-induced paranoia added to the hunger and despair. The dialogue is sparse, and not once in 100 minutes do we hear laughter or feel much hope for Ree’s future. What makes it all bearable is the strength and determination of Ree, movingly played by 19-year-old Lawrence.
Director: Debra Granik
Year of Release: 2010
Character to watch: Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?