I've read and liked just about everything Daniel Woodrell has written. Winter's Bone might be his finest book; but, then again, maybe not. Because they're all very good. But, then, I'm a sucker for regional writers, especially those from the south or anything about the southern mountains. However, it's not Daniel Woodrell that I want to write about. It's Debra Granik's adaptation, which I finally got around to seeing (better late than never), and was so impressed by. Jennifer Lawrence as seventeen year old Ree is magnificent, as is John Hawkes who plays her uncle Teardrop. There are few if any films that portray Ozark culture, much less portray it so well. There are many touching moments in the film, not least a birthday party that Ree crashes to get information about the whereabouts of her father. A group musicians play a mountain tune, while the camera fixes for a very brief moment on the mantel piece. Amongst other photograph there's one of a son or nephew, in military gear, no doubt serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or maybe even the first Gulf war. And, of course, these people portrayed in Woodrell's book(s) and Granik's film are the very people who fight our wars and die for our country, these people who don't know how to back down, who are so private and clannish, who are forced through circumstances to manufacture and sell drugs culture, and can only get a job or an education by joining the military. They are also the same people who take the blame when anything goes wrong in the military, because they are the ones who are in the foreground, who put themselves in harm's way, who carry the can. Not the Rumsfelds or the Bushes or the Patraeus's But Ree can't even join the military because she has to fight a battle to keep her family together. If you haven't seen this film yet, by all means do. And don't forget Daniel Woodrell's novels, because they are all right up there with Winter's Bone.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.