If you want to see what Jennifer Lawrence can do when she has a decent character — as opposed to, say, her part in X-Men: First Class — you should check out the “rural noir” independent Winter’s Bone, a well made, small scale mystery set in southern Missouri. Lawrence stars as Ree, basically her family’s last line of defense: her father is missing, her mother’s an invalid, and her two siblings aren’t old enough to fend for themselves. Seventeen-year-old Ree holds the family together, and by default takes point on the search for her dad when he disappears shortly after putting up the family property as collateral for a bail bond. With their home on the line, Ree looks for her father in hopes of getting him to report, but her search gets her into hot water when she starts poking at the edges of a mystery the locals don’t want her to solve.
This is a smart, patient film anchored by Lawrence’s strong lead performance; it’s easy to see how this one put her on the map. Within the limitations of its budget, it delivers a dark, compelling mystery with a chillingly executed atmosphere of menace. Recommended.