Winter’s Bone

I’ve gotten on a movie kick recently, which started off with a visit to a local theater that shows independent movies, Landmark Bethesda Row. The very first movie I saw there was Winter’s Bone, and let me tell you, it is amazing. I had read a lot of hype about it beforehand – Jennifer Lawrence, the main actress (from Tennessee!) gives a “watchful, precise, and quietly heroic performance,” and the film is “close to flawless,” the “American film of the year.“, etc, etc, etc. Even so, I tried to keep  my expectations down. I’d heard a lot of hype about Let the Right One In, too, and turns out I thought that was just a weird Swedish vampire movie with all the excitement sucked out of it (lol, pun).

But Winter’s Bone did not let me down. I found it pitch-perfect. Everything about it was amazing. The acting was fantastic, the story was real and made sense, and it had a ring of authenticity to it that really resonated with me. I caught myself thinking “I’ve been in that house,” or “I’ve met those people.” Let me be clear, I have not actually been in a meth dealer’s house, but the look and feel and sound of the people and environment of the poor South rang true to me.

The movie also made me evaluate my privilege. It happens sometimes that I bump into people who’s worlds are so much smaller than mine, and it’s always disconcerting. Ree, the main character in the movie for example – going to college is probably not even something she imagines as an option. The best she hopes for is to provide for her family in such a way that they don’t go hungry and don’t become homeless. Her dreams are not particularly relevant, and “career goals” is not a phrase she’s likely spent much time on. And having a healthy family life, making a legal living, would be miles above what most of the people she knows have, and so is a goal to strive for, rather than something to take for granted. And by some quirk of fate I’ve landed in a place where my options have always seemed limitless. Going to college was not a question – of course I would go. I want to get a Master’s degree, so I put off getting a job in my career field to pursue more education. If I want to be a lawyer, I can go to law school. If I want to be a doctor, I can go to med school. Same for psychiatrist, pharmacist, politician, engineer, accountant, physicist – all of these careers were (and are) mine to choose from. I’m aware that I have disadvantages that work against me, but compared to Ree, they’re laughably small. And that’s a valuable piece of perspective.

But I don’t think it’s enough to watch Winter’s Bone and think “Wow, I’m so lucky I was born in Nashville and not in the Ozarks!” and then forget about it. Working to make it so that the Ree’s of the world can have a big, boundless world like ours is the only acceptable course of action once you’ve realized that her world is limited through no fault of her own, and yours is limitless for reasons you can’t take full credit for.

You can watch it to provoke thoughts on class and gender, or you can watch it cause it’s a great suspense thriller, it doesn’t matter. The point is – watch it!

Here’s a link to the trailer:

And a link to the official site, where you can find out where it’s playing near you:


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