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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Winter's Bone

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February 18, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Winter's Bone

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that's currently in theaters or on DVD.

Winter's Bone (2010)

In theaters now, and available on DVD

Winter’s Bone is about en eldest child, Ree Dolly, whose father goes missing and whose mother goes dumb, leaving the 17-year-old to parent her two younger siblings. To make matters worse, her father left behind a sticky legal situation, the consequences of which involve losing the family home if he isn’t found.

Ree, being the responsible, determined character she is, sets off through the Ozark woods (and the homes of the ragged people who run its meth labs) looking for him, sparking a gritty whodunit enhanced by crisp, cold cinematography and world-class acting.

Though Winter’s Bone is about survival, it isn’t really about environmental issues. However, there is one poignant scene in which Ree, facing the possibility that her father may never turn up, considers selling the centuries-old forest on their land to timber interests to save her family’s home. Usually stoic, she seems uncharacteristically wrenched about the prospect and tearfully begs her mother for advice. Her mom remains catatonic.

The dilemma fairly illustrates the agonizing choice people sometimes have to make between money and conservation – the ever-present threat of a hungry poverty can always be beaten back (at least for a while) if you’ve got ancient resources to sell, even if that’s the last thing you want to do.

It’s this kind of tense, nothing-is-ever-simple storytelling that netted the film four Oscar nominations, including ones for best picture and best actress (Jennifer Lawrence), as well as Sundance’s grand jury prize. It’s not for the fainthearted, but even those who don’t usually go for dark, raw realism will come away with something of value.

--Avital Binshtock

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