Chilling Brilliance, 9 October 2010
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A slow burning tale of a young woman’s fight to save her family’s home from the Bondsmen. Set amongst the mountain people of the Ozark mountains in Missouri, USA, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly, the seventeen year old leader of the family by default, tending a young brother and sister, and a mentally ill mother as homelessness looms.
The remote location is reminiscent of “Deliverance” and “Southern Comfort”, but the story is shorn of the visceral action which characterised them. We witness a young woman assuming responsibility when all around her abandon theirs. Her mother is a pathetic mute figure, her siblings wholly dependent ,her grandfather is hostile, her grandmother savagely beats her, and indifference or self interested hostility abounds. Only her uncle, grudgingly, ends up helping her in her search to find her father, who is immersed in drug culture,and avert the impending loss of their home if he fails to show for a Court appearance.
At the heart of this story is amorality, right and wrong are uneasy bedfellows. Ree’s father has let her, and the family down, and has betrayed his friends. The Bondsman, who could easily be stereotyped as the Bad Guy, comes good. Her grandmother obstructs her, leads a shocking female gang assault, but also finally offers closure to her quest. The Police are ambivalent peripheral figures, showcased in a tense roadside car stop stand off towards the end. The women are cowed wives, complicit in violence, but offer self-less assistance when the chips are down.
The pace is overwhelmingly laconic, atmospheric and menacingly hillbilly making the climax of the film when Ree discovers her fathers fate all the more gruesome and shocking. Inevitably the final act falls a little flat thereafter. This is not for adrenaline junkies, and lovers of snappy dialogue or fast editing. Instead this is a film which allows the characters to breathe, to be nuanced and not to be defined by action, but rather by their actions. Bravely, the magnificent scenery backdrop is not allowed to dominate, instead images of tumbledown shacks, car wrecks and drug dens dominate.
Easily one of the best pictures of the year, and a triumph for Director Debra Granik whose previous debut feature, “Down to the Bone” explored some similar themes of female resilience and deprived drug culture. The unexpectedly upbeat ending is delightfully uncontrived and neatly wraps up a fine offering