Memoir Movie Review: Winter’s Bone – A Definite “Must” for Memoir Writers

by Matilda Butler on December 1, 2010

catnav-book-raves-active-3Post #68 – Women’s Memoirs, Book & Video Raves – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

It is with great pleasure that we introduce a new feature on our Women’s Memoirs website. Movies bring stories to life. Movies cause us to resonate with people and places across time. Movies touch our emotions. Not many memoirs become movies, although a few do. So in order to share movies with you that may help you consider how you craft your story, how to take readers with you on your life journey, our movie reviewer extraordinaire, Diana Paul, is going to cover a broad ranage of movies. Her main criterion for inclusion is that the story focuses on a woman’s life and be written as if it were (or could be) a memoir.

You may remember Diana’s Secret of Lasagna that included both a story and her grandmother’s recipe. More recently, Diana reviewed the memoir, Thin Places. Now Diana returns as our regular Movie Reviewer.

Diana Y. Paul, Women’s Memoirs Movie Reviewer

http://unhealedwound.com

Debra Granik, director of Winter's Bone, accepting a 2010 Sundance Festival award. (AP)

Debra Granik, director of Winter's Bone, accepting a 2010 Sundance Festival award. (AP)

The film, Winter’s Bone, won two 2010 Sundance awards: the Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and it is easy to see why. This is a powerful and mesmerizing movie to watch, transporting the viewer through cinematic storytelling of a quasi-documentary style. Based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel by the same name, often called “country noir”, this movie fascinates but also will offend some of its audience, especially those who are familiar with the Ozark and Appalachian regions of the Midwest. It seems wrong to reveal too much of the ethnographic place, time and people of this region for fear of delving into stereotyping of “hillbilly” subculture. But for those of us familiar with the Ozarks and/or Appalachia, the portrayal is especially haunting.


[Video On Demand on Amazon] But, the story transcends the hardscrabble scrubby farms of stray animals and kids. A young 17 year-old Missouri girl from the poorest of the poor Ozark Mountain region named Ree Dolly (actress: Jennifer Lawrence in an understated but impeccable performance) claws through perilous terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. Her father, with no affection for either his wife or kids, puts the family shack up as collateral for his bail bond and then vanishes. If Ree doesn’t pay back the bondsman, her family (ill mother, younger sister and brother) will become homeless.

Winter’s Bone is emotionally and visually bleak, revealing in scene after scene the truly desperate hopelessness of having to survive in the godforsaken backwoods of grim Americana. There is no sense of responsibility for another human being in extreme circumstances, because everyone lives in those same extreme circumstances. Neighbors and “kin” are ruled by tribal customs and either afraid or hateful towards Ree. The girl is tough, dreaming of escaping to a new life. Her drug-addicted mother and kin have abandoned her emotionally and she must take life-threatening action to save not only her soul but that of her siblings and her mother.

The film sidesteps sentimentality and is much better for it, more enthralling and poignant. The characters are more complex than first appears. They’re tough and mean, but also able to reveal a glimpse of the compassion that they could have sustained in more merciful, kinder circumstances. Some of the cast members are nonprofessional actors and their faces and voices paint the cruel native habitat in wordless eloquence. This is the power of memoir at its best.

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