Image from here
I have to admit that the people and places in this movie are more familiar to me than is really comfortable. I had not-distant-enough relatives in Forsyth, Missouri, where the film was made, and a significant fraction of my extended family are scattered around the surrounding area. And there was a lot I recognized, in type if not in particular.
Winter's Bone is the story of a young woman (played by Jennifer Lawrence) whose meth-cooking father has put up their homestead for his bond. When it looks like he may not show up for his court date, she has to go find him, all the while caring for her two younger siblings and crazy mother.
There are several things I like about this movie. For one thing, it's refreshing to see a contemporary story populated entirely by people for whom neither the S&P 500 nor E! television have the least relevance. The dead simplicity of these characters and their lives is something that's worth noting, especially when we consider how much of our population might be represented by the characters in this film. And the film at least attempts to portray this small world without portraying the characters as stupid or unimportant.
Winter's Bone also features an interesting cast of characters, despite the cultural homogeneity of the people in the film. And it manages to stay surprising, in spite of a straightforward plot. Since it's an independent film, the local people and actual locations add to the authenticity. The production values were quite good, especially for an independent film. The DVD edition includes an extensive "making of" segment that illustrates some of the challenges they faced.
The film does have a little too much of the Walking Tall style hillbilly mafia to ring 100% true for me. But just a touch. And some of the dialogue is a little over the top. But overall, it's a well-told and personal story, and a very engaging drama. I wouldn't exactly call it the feel-good movie of the year, but it's definitely a drama worth watching.