Winter's Bone

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Winter's Bone Movie Poster Image
Strong teen girl character drives grim but superb drama.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 100 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

The movie is relentlessly downbeat, but it does have a positive slant. The heroine is only 17 and has found herself in charge of raising her two younger siblings. Given a difficult problem to solve, she musters up  courage, faces her fears, and marches into danger. There's also a secondary, but equally powerful message about the importance of family.

Positive role models & representations

No parent would ever wish for their teen to be in Ree's situation. However, Ree is impressively brave, resourceful, and selfless. She's wise beyond her years and seems to know how to navigate difficult situations in this quasi-criminal community, but she's above doing anything illegal or unhealthy to herself (with one exception).

Violence

Very little graphic violence, but the movie is filled with the simmering, realistic threat of violence. Characters are always flashing guns, and animals are shot, killed and skinned (for eating). A character teaches two young kids how to shoot guns safely. More than once, adult characters threaten children and teens. One adult character wraps his hands around a teenage girl's throat. The teenage girl is later beaten up, but this occurs offscreen. We only see her cuts and bruises. Finally, there's a somewhat gruesome sequence involving cutting the hands off of a corpse with a chainsaw; the corpse is under water and not much is actually visible, but the scene is powerfully suggestive.

Sex

Some very infrequent language and mild suggestion.

Language

Language is not constant, but is occasionally very strong, including a few uses of "f--k" and many uses of "s--t." Otherwise, we hear "ass" several times, and "t-ts" once. We also hear "balls," "go to hell," "son of a bitch," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Most of the characters are drug makers and drug dealers, except for the main characters. The teen girl very deliberately avoids drugs and frowns upon them, except for one scene in which she accepts a "doobie." The other characters seem to make their own "crank" in homemade meth labs. We don't see any of this onscreen, but there are many references to it, including the terms "cooking" and "cooking crank." An older character snorts coke onscreen, and smokes several cigarettes. A character offers a "line" and to "blow some smoke." And another character mentions marijuana. Some drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Winter's Bone -- a grim drama about a brave, resourceful 17-year-old heroine -- is not overly violent, but has a constant, simmering promise of violence, with lots of guns and threats, even toward children. Drugs and smoking are ever-present, if not always seen onscreen, since the action is set in a drug-making community. There is strong, but not constant language, including multiple uses of "s--t" and a few uses of "f--k." Aside from the gloomy tone, however, the character of Ree is incredibly admirable, and the importance of family becomes a strong theme.

User Reviews

Adult Written byDebbiemac November 22, 2010

Good for 16+, Parents should discuss with kids

Very grim but realistic film. I would let my 16 year olds see it primarily because of the strong female character Ree who takes on tremendous responsibility for...
Adult Written byHoward Roark July 13, 2010
Basically a mob movie set in a rundown rural area: two clans involved in taking and making drugs. One guy gets busted and snitches on the other family so they...
Teen, 15 years old Written byBestPicture1996 July 23, 2011

Gritty but worth watching

"Winter's Bone" is a dark and a little disturbing movie about a thriller-drama set in one of the most nastiest, hillbilly-ish places on Earth. Th...
Teen, 14 years old Written byhowrselover October 19, 2012

good

I am 12 and loved it, but an immature 12-yr-old might make drug jokes the whole time so parents beware

What's the story?

Seventeen year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her invalid mother, and is now in charge of raising her younger brother and sister. She receives word that her father, a meth "cooker," is out of jail. He has put up the family house as part of his bail bond, and if he fails to show up for his court date, they will lose the house. Ree must navigate the treacherous world of backwoods drug-makers and drug dealers, looking for clues to her father's whereabouts, facing escalating violence wherever she goes. The deeper she gets, the more she begins to realize that her father may not even be alive anymore. Only her dangerous uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) can help, but how far can Ree trust him?

Is it any good?

Director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone) has the grace to approach the film's grim material and run-down, depressing setting with genuine humanity and curiosity. The movie also offers gripping suspense and uniformly excellent performances. What looks like a wallow in poverty and desperate situations is actually a celebration of resourcefulness and the importance of family; in searching for her father, Ree finds new depths of bravery within herself. Based on a 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell, WINTER'S BONE has undertones of detective stories, as well as gangster and cowboy stories.

Thankfully, the mountain men and women in this movie are not portrayed as brainless rednecks. The story plays out like a chess game; all the players have their eyes on each other's pieces, and each knows what the next move is going to be. As Ree goes deeper on her quest, her showdowns become increasingly tense and unpredictable. Though teens might not be drawn to this movie, those who take a chance and are mature enough to handle the grim tone will be rewarded with a powerful movie with a main character who defies the standard teen stereotypes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character of Ree. She's different from the teen characters often seen in movies -- how? Do you think her character is more or less realistic than the teens portrayed in big Hollywood movies? Do you have a preference for this grittier character, or do you prefer the fantasy of glamour that many movies offer?

  • Ree's community is filled with smoking and drugs and the threat of violence. How are the movie's portrayals of drugs and violence different or similar to the way they show up in other movies? Was the drug use glamorized? Did it look like these characters led appealing lifestyles? Did you recognize anything from real life in this movie?

Movie details

For kids who love movies about growing up

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate