Monday, July 5, 2010

The real story behind Winter's Bone

When I read the novel, Winter's Bone, a couple years ago, I found its southern realism hard to take.

There was something painful, like the throb of an abscessed tooth, in reading about the fictional lives of the Dolly family. They are a family caught up in poverty, meth cooking and selling, lawlessness, and death in the hollows of the Missouri Ozarks.

And when the film came out, I resisted going. Reading the novel was like pushing a plow through a rocky, stumpy field; and surely, I thought, seeing the film wouldn't be any easier.

But I went to see Winter's Bone the other day. And I'm glad I did.

It's superbly crafted: well-written, directed, acted, and filmed. (Local actress Beth Doman has a role in it.)

The film concentrates novelist Daniel Woodrell's story in a way the novel strings it out, as novels do, and delivers it to the viewer with the force of both barrels of the shotgun that 17 year-old heroine Ree totes to the door when a stranger knocks.

Winter's Bone shows the power of love--Ree's for her mentally impaired mother and her brother and sister. She sacrifices, suffers, and risks her life for the survival of her little family. She's all they have, in the absence of her father, a meth cook and seller who's jumped bail, disappeared into the hills, and imperiled the family home and property.

Ree fears she and her family will be living in the woods. So she goes in search of her father, resolved to produce the man himself to the bail bondsman or the evidence that he's dead.

At first I thought Winter's Bone, which made it to the screen with help from the Missouri Film Commission, didn't do justice to Missouri and the Ozarks, which I love.

But it does. It's not really a film about poverty, drugs, and lawlessness, but about the morality, the courage, the love of family embodied in young Ree Dolly.

It showed the true spirit and soul of the Ozarks.

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