Winter's Bone (2010)
Wasn't sure what to make of this Ozark hillbilly-noir; ts stereotypes aren't too far from hicksploitation, and Debra Granik, the director, is from Massachusetts. But comments at the Times from Missourians say that there really are mountain folk down there who, like these families live in poverty and cook meth; reportedly the movie was filmed in locals' homes.
With that question settled, I'm happier about loving it: the film does feel epic in scope, if not necessarily a Greek tragedy then an odyssey -- Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), who cares for her two younger siblings and her incapacitated mother, goes looking for her dear old dad, who has disappeared after making bail on a drug charge and left their home in danger of being seized by a bondsman. Her insular community of criminal hicks isn't pleased that she's asking questions (neither the questions nor the gender) and her desperate situation gets even worse.
I'm sick of bleak, muted colours as shorthand for Serious Business, but you can't argue with the atmosphere of menace.
Jennifer Lawrence is excellent, as are the rest of the women; there's a strong feminist undercurrent to the film, even if the focus on the missing father does keep it from passing the Bechdel Test, and they get most of the most nuanced roles.
That said, the standout performance is John Hawkes (Deadwood) as Ree's uncle, Teardrop, whose menace is gradually shown as something more more complex.
An excellent little thriller.