Winter's Bone

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Winter's Bone
Winters bone poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Debra Granik
Produced by Anne Rosellini
Alix Madigan
Written by Debra Granik
Anne Rosellini
Based on Winter's Bone 
by Daniel Woodrell
Music by Dickon Hinchliffe
Cinematography Michael McDonough
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Release dates
  • January 21, 2010 (2010-01-21) (Sundance)
  • June 11, 2010 (2010-06-11) (United States)
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $13,831,503[1]

Winter's Bone is a 2010 American independent drama film, an adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's 2006 novel of the same name. Written and directed by Debra Granik, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teenaged girl in the rural Ozarks of the central United States who, to protect her family from eviction, must locate her missing father. The film explores the interrelated themes of close and distant family ties, the power and speed of gossip, self-sufficiency, and poverty as they are changed by the pervasive underworld of illegal methamphetamine labs.

Winter's Bone won several awards including the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It also received four 2011 Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.


Seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) looks after her mentally ill mother, her twelve-year-old brother Sonny, and her six-year-old sister Ashlee. Every day, Ree makes sure her siblings eat, while teaching them basic survival skills like hunting and cooking. The family is very poor. Ree's father, Jessup, has not been home for a long time and his whereabouts are unknown. He is out on bail following an arrest for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The sheriff tells Ree that if her father does not show up for his court date, they will lose the house because it was put up as part of his bond. Ree sets out to find her father, following his trail into a world where meth use is common, violence is frequent, and people are bound by codes of loyalty and secrecy. She starts with her meth-addicted uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) and continues on to more distant kin, eventually trying to talk to the local crime boss, Thump Milton. Milton refuses to see her; the only information Ree comes up with are warnings to leave the situation alone and stories that Jessup died in a meth lab fire or skipped town to avoid the trial.

When Jessup fails to appear for the trial, the bondsman comes looking for him and tells Ree that she will have about a week before the house and land are seized. Ree tells him that Jessup must be dead, because "Dollys don't run". He tells her that she will need to provide proof that her father is dead in order to avoid the bond being forfeited.

Ree tries to go to see Milton again and is severely beaten by the women of his family. Teardrop shows up and rescues Ree, promising her attackers that she will not say anything or cause any more trouble. Teardrop tells Ree that her father was killed because he was going to inform on other meth cookers, but he does not know who killed him; he warns her that if she ever finds out who did that she must not tell him because he would kill that person.

A few nights later, the same three Milton women who beat Ree come to her house. They offer to take her to "[her] daddy's bones". The women place a burlap sack on her head and drive her to a pond, where they get into a rowboat and row to the shallow place where her father's submerged body lies. They tell Ree to reach into the freezing water and grasp her father's hands so they can cut them off with a chainsaw; the severed, decaying arms will serve as proof of death for the authorities. Ree takes the hands to the sheriff, telling him that someone flung them onto the porch of her house.

The bondsman comes back to the house and gives Ree the cash portion of the bond, which was put up by an anonymous associate of Jessup. Ree tries to give Jessup's banjo to Teardrop, but he tells her to keep it at the house for him. As he is leaving, he tells her that he now knows who killed her father. Ree reassures Sonny and Ashlee that she will not ever leave them, regardless of the money she just received. As the film closes, Ashlee retrieves Jessup's banjo and strums its strings.



Critical response[edit]

Winter's Bone received widespread critical acclaim, with Lawrence's performance being universally lauded. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94% based on 157 reviews, with an average score of 8.3/10. The site's "consensus" reads, "Bleak, haunting, and yet still somehow hopeful, Winter's Bone is writer-director Debra Granik's best work yet—and it boasts an incredible, starmaking performance from Jennifer Lawrence."[2] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 1–100 reviews from film critics, reports a rating score of 90 based on 35 reviews, placing the film in Metacritic's "universal acclaim" category.[3]

Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, praising Lawrence's steely "hope and courage" that remains optimistic despite her tribulations, and calling attention to Granik's direction that avoids passing moral judgement on the characters or descending into stereotypes.[4] Reviewer Peter Travers found the film "unforgettable", writing in Rolling Stone, "Granik handles this volatile, borderline horrific material with unblinking ferocity and feeling.... In Lawrence, Granik has found just the right young actress to inhabit Ree. Her performance is more than acting, it's a gathering storm."[5] Critic James Berardinelli said that "Winter's Bone is a welcome reminder that thrillers don't have to be loud and boisterous to grab the attention and keep it captive."[6] David Edelstein wrote in New York magazine, "For all the horror, it’s the drive toward life, not the decay, that lingers in the mind. As a modern heroine, Ree Dolly has no peer, and Winter’s Bone is the year’s most stirring film."[7] New Yorker critic David Denby called Winter's Bone "one of the great feminist works in film."[8] The A.V. Club put the film at No. 1 on their list of the best movies of the year.[9]

Audience response[edit]

Winter's Bone debuted in cinemas in mid-June 2010, with its opening weekend generating "a hearty" $84,797 on four screens; the movie’s subsequent outing and expansion to 39 total venues yielded sales of $351,317 (for a per-theater average of $9,008).[10] The film's distributors Roadside Attractions aimed, concurrently with New York, Los Angeles and Boston, at "heartland cities" such as Minneapolis, Overland Park, St. Louis, Springfield, Dallas and Denver, which eventually all attracted significant audiences, surpassing New York's.[10] According to the distributor, "the filmmakers had always wanted to deliver the movie to the people who helped them make it."[10] As of March 2011, the film had grossed over $6.5 million in domestic ticket sales and $7.3 million internationally.[1]


The film won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film and the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.[11] It also received two awards at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival in Germany and at the 2010 Stockholm International Film Festival, it won the awards for Best Film, Best Actress (Lawrence) and the Fipresci Prize.[12]

Winter's Bone also won Best Feature and Best Ensemble Performance at the 2010 Gotham Awards[13] and it earned seven nominations at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Winter's Bone (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Winter's Bone (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Winter's Bone". Metacritic. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (2010). "Winter's Bone". Retrieved 30 Jan 2013. 
  5. ^ Travers, Peter (June 3, 2010). "Winter's Bone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Winter's Bone". Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ Edelstein, David (June 6, 2010). "Ozark Gothic". New York Magazine. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  8. ^ Denby, David (July 5, 2010). "Thrills and Chills". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  9. ^ Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Scott Tobias (December 16, 2010). "The best films of 2010". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c "Winter’s Bone Heats Up in the Heartland" Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2010
  11. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (January 31, 2010). "'Winter's Bone' wins grand jury prize for drama at Sundance". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Winners 2010 – Stockholms filmfestival". Stockholm International Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  13. ^ Ryzik, Melena (November 29, 2010). "‘Winter’s Bone’ Dominates at Gothams". New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  14. ^ Tourtellotte, Bob (November 30, 2010). "'Winter's Bone,' 'Kids' come up big at Spirit Awards". Reuters. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
Succeeded by
Like Crazy