Winter’s Bone – Written by Daniel Woodrell
Winter’s Bone is one of the best novels I have ever read. Set in the mountainous Ozarks, Woodrell creates a incestual, redneck colony so far removed from reality it barely represents American way of life. The language and setting is used mysteriously and with such incredible attention to detail it often made me cringe. I loved the short vignette-type chapters that gave a quick glimpse of nature and beauty, breaking up the very serious issues at hand. Woodrell truly has a gift and he shares it appropriately with his readers.
Ree Dolly is an amazing character who literally puts her life on the line to save her family. The entire community is involved in the production and intake of ‘crank’, her father Jessup having owned and ran several meth labs, and her ability to avoid falling into the drug trap is kind of astonishing. The absence of Jessup reinforces Ree’s commitment to her inept Mother and two little brothers and, at the start of Winter’s Bone, she sets out on a journey to find her father and salvage her home.
The story is so explicit and wonderful it is difficult to even give a review. Since Ree is brought up in such a backwards culture, her thoughts do not follow in the usual way, making her an outstanding character. She is someone who is vivid and clear in your mind; I found myself just thinking about Ree even after I had finished reading. It was refreshing to see such a strong, young character who literally does not take no for an answer and fights through the harshest realities. While a phenomenal read, Winter’s Bone is not for the faint hearted. There are a few disturbing situations that are difficult to imagine and take in. Barely any happiness can be found, although the resolution at the succession of the story did bring hope.
“Winter’s Bone” – Directed by Debra Granik
There is a reason why this movie won major awards at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It is relatively flawless in terms of writing and directing, with Jennifer Lawrence both stunning and strong as Ree Dolly.
The scene where Ree lies bruised and bloody in her bed but still asks for Gail to make sure her siblings do their homework reveals her hierarchy in the household. Her family desperately needs her and Ree takes on an unimaginable responsibility in the most desperate of times. It is hard to critique this film. It was beautiful and very well done, with all dialogue and character profiles on point.
There were only two things I felt were missing from the film. Snow, being the first thing, was such an integral part of the novel. It made Ree’s journey seem more difficult and desperate, and definitely played more to the winter aspect. Maybe it was taken out for budget reasons, but I felt there should have definitely been snow on the ground in the film. The second factor I felt was missing was the real grittiness of these people. Yes, the Dolly’s and Milton’s in the film all came off as poor and somewhat backwards, but Woodrell had some amazing images that were just missing. For example, the last page of Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone describes Ree “She laid to fingers high on her nose and pinched a yellow splat into the yard.” It is not a pretty image, but it encompasses all that Ree is, which I wanted to see portrayed on screen.
I did find the movie riveting and gloomy in all the right ways. It was somewhat different from the novel but, in no means, was a bad film. Just like the novel, I found myself thinking about “Winter’s Bone” for days after and felt a deep connection to the story and characters.
Mook Rating –– ★★★★★