Winter's Bone Movie Poster Image

Winter's Bone



Strong teen girl character drives grim but superb drama.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: June 10, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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).


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.


Some very infrequent language and mild suggestion.


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."

Not applicable
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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:June 11, 2010
DVD release date:October 26, 2010
Cast:Garret Dillahunt, Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes
Director:Debra Granik
Studio:Roadside Attractions
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some drug material, language and violent content

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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. The main character Ree, played superbly by Jennifer Lawrence, is a determined, hard-working teen set on finding her father while raising her insane mother and 2 little siblings. At one point the film gets almost unmercifully dark, but at the end things lighten up and the audience still has a shimmer of hope for Ree & her family. Definitely a movie worth checking out, if not for the fine performances of Lawrence and great supporting actor John Hawkes.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much swearing
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 a teenager because the adults in her life are unable or unwilling to do so. My only criticism is the ending which is in keeping with the relentless realism of the movie but I would like to have seen a little more uplifting tone at the end. Still - a cautionary tale, an inspirational female character. I recommend for 16 and over, with parental discussion.
What other families should know
Great messages
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 kill him. That leaves his children to fend for themselves. The drama is the 17 year old trying to find out what happened and coming up against various nasty family members. Yes, the acting and cinematography is excellent, but the movie is bleak and depressing, despite the girl's perseverance. We care about the girl and her two siblings, but not really much and not at all about any of the rest of these people. Nothing new to learn, nothing to suggest life will change for any of these characters. Celebration of resourcefulness is way too generous and uplifting a term. The girl was resourceful only in that she didnt give up. Like watching an accident or so many of the sordid reality shows, where the only benefit is knowing your life is better. Certainly not entertaining and not much substance to consider afterward. Much ado about nothing.


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