Just finished watching Winter's Bone, which I've been meaning to catch ever since I heard the glowing reviews coming out of last year's Sundance Film Festival. (Where it won the Grand Jury Prize for best Dramatic Film.)
The film was written and directed by Debra Granik, and stars Jennifer Lawrence as the 17 year old Ozark teenager responsible for raising her two younger siblings when their impoverished family is seemingly abandoned by their meth-dealing father when he skips out on bail. When she discovers that he put the family home up as his bail bond and if he doesn't return to face trail they'll lose the house, she determines to track him down. The story follows her as she perseveres to find out her father's fate, despite the obstacles put in her path by the local criminals, family and law alike.
Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Ree Dolly, the major protagonist of the film, who faces the hillybilly-gangster world unflinchingly, refusing to step aside despite the white-trash nightmare world she's entering. Everyone she encounters seems to be kin of some kind and each more determined than the last to place obstacles in her way to stop her from learning the truth. It's stark and unrelenting, but Ree Dolly's moral center, intelligence and her courage in the face of the violent world she's entering make her an understated feminist lead.
Likewise is essentially a crime thriller is played through the lens of downbeat Orzak scenery in place of the more familiar surroundings of urban sprawl, which makes the film that much more unique. The story itself is, perhaps, not fresh. But the presentation - all backwater grime in the Orzak woods, drained of life and color - presents the poverty, both moral and literal, of the world unflinchingly and without sentiment. It's Arkansas Noir.