A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
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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.