Director: Debra Granik
Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a young woman of great moral courage and resourcefulness, who is struggling to care for her mother (made incapable through depression) and her young brother and sister. She takes them to school, tests their spelling and arithmetic and teaches them how to hunt and cook.
The setting is the Ozark Mountains, Missouri, amongst the poor white community, closely-bound by ties of kinship and a deep distrust of authority. They have moved on from brewing illegal moonshine to the even more dangerous but more profitable manufacture of crystal meth or ‘crank’.
Ree’s long-absent father Jessup is deeply involved in cooking meth and is out on bail after informing on some of his fellow criminals. The Sheriff calls to tell Ree that her father, having put up their house as security for his bail, has now vanished and unless he appears in court on the due date, the house will be forfeit and she and her family made homeless. Ree embarks on a journey to find her father and get at the truth, even though everyone involved closes ranks against her. Her uncle ‘Teardrop’, a loose cannon gets involved in her quest before the truth is eventually revealed.
Over the years these poor white mountain communities have been the subject of various political initiatives, books and films including John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, The Beverly Hillbillies, Li’l Abner and memorably John Boorman’s Deliverance. This is Debra Granik’s second film and she has chosen to treat what is essentially a thriller as a naturalistic drama, spare and unflinching. Michael McDonough has shot the film beautifully using the new RED camera process.
Philip French compares the visual look of the film to Andrew Wyeth’s work, who painted American rural life so brilliantly.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt
Awards: Four Oscar nominations, eighteen wins and twenty-two other nominations
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