I highly recommend this wonderful independent film,"Winter's Bone." Try to see it before it leaves theatres. Writer/Director Debra Granik and writer Anne Rosselini have created a moody, intense film about a heroic seventeen year old girl, Ree Dolly (a superb Jennifer Lawrence) whose mother, Connie (Valerie Richards), is non compos mentis, the result of her husband's drug dealings; he has been missing for over a week. So Ree takes on the job of raising her younger siblings: a wise 12 year old boy, Sonny (Isaiah Stone) and Ashlee a sweet seven year old (Ashlee Thompson). You get an insight into Ree's thwarted longings when she takes them to school and her love for her father as she stands before his neatly arranged closet.

The problem is that besides being dirt poor, the family is about to lose their property which the father had put up for bond if he fails to show for a court date. They live in the Missouri out-back in a faux log cabin home little bigger than a double-wide trailer, in a community of meth-cooking druggies, where the law is suspect. This is Ozark country, a depressed area where nothing is thrown out - - well, thrown out the front or back door because there's no room for anymore stuff in the house. Every surface is piled with stuff. Broken down vehicles sit in front yards, some with tarps thrown over them; there's farm machinery, four-wheel tractors, saw horses, plastic tricycles and toys. The surrounding land, weed-grown. Still, there's evidence of solvency: some nice homes and out-buildings, well-fed livestock, a harvest ready for market. The men drive around in nifty four-wheel drives and pick-ups; there's money somewhere, but the men in Ree's extended family appear to do nothing but sit around and do drugs, an activity to which Ree is totally averse.

It's early winter, the trees are bare, everything is brown and gray. It looks cold, really cold (Cinematography by Michael McDonough). What warmth there is is in the loving relationship between Ree, her mute mom, and her siblings, whom she sees are warmly dressed and get to school; she rustles up meager meals. You get that she will do anything for them. The boy is playful, yet seems to grok what's going on; the little girl is happy to ride her stuffed pony around on a trampoline and play make-believe.

Ree sets out to find her dad but hits formidable roadblocks at every turn. No one will help her, not even her dad's brother, Teardrop (a standout, nuanced performance by John Hawkes) or other relatives. She is violently turned away, doors slammed in her face. The one person who it is said to know everything is a feared elderly patriarch, Thumb Milton (Ronnie Hall), who dresses like a biker without a bike. Though warned of the consequences by Merab (a perfectly cast Dale Dickey) if she keeps it up, Ree is determined. What will happen to them if they lose the house? You sense a conspiracy of silence and an undercurrent of absolute evil. Her neighbor Sonya (Shelley Waggener) grudgingly takes pity by sharing equipment and horse feed, food and what little money they can spare. Ree bravely confronts Milton and suffers greatly for it. Not by him, but at the hands of Merab and her tough, hard-bitten female accomplices. Ree is comforted and aided by her best friend, Gail (Lauren Sweetser).

Parts of the film are harrowing and nightmarish, as in the scene where Ree, with Merab, searches out her father in a swamp. In all, it is completely fulfilling, engaging the audience on every level with entirely believable characters without a note of falsity, pandering, or exploitation. One unforgettable scene is of a group of musicians, playing and singing traditional mountain folk tunes in someone's living room; an old, white-haired, comfortably plump woman (Marideth Sisco) sings in a clear, rich voice. Outstanding performances by Sherril Lee as April, Garret Dillahunt as Sheriff Baskin, Brandon Gray as Spider Milton, and Kevin Breznahan as Little Arthur. There's a non-intrusive film score of original music by Dickon Hinchcliff. The film was shot in and around Branson, Missouri.