Hot on the heels of Hailee Steinfeld’s surprising performance in True Grit, Jennifer Lawrence gives a stunning performance of her own in the dark, solemn and uncompromising Winter’s Bone. Like True Grit, Winter’s Bone centers around a young girl and her father; in this case, it’s 17-year-old Ree, who is left with the aftermath of her father’s disappearance. She is the only person capable of taking care of her younger siblings, as their mother is incapacitated, and when the possibility of ending up homeless looms over the family if her father fails to make his court appearance, Ree sets out to find him and bring him home.
Winter’s Bone is a difficult film. Its cinematography is harsh and brittle, its flawed and unyielding. Despite this, Lawrence and John Hawkes, who plays Ree’s uncle, Teardrop, are bright lights. They infuse their characters with something that the viewer can empathize with, despite the desperation of their lives. You want to cheer for Ree; in the face of adversity, she never gives up on her family, even when she must deal with the most dire and heartbreaking of situations.
Winter’s Bone may not come away from the Academy Awards with any major accolades, but it shines a light on the promising talents of Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.