Tag Archives: john hawkes

Quickie: Winter’s Bone

Winter's BoneRee Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) looks after her mentally ill mother and two siblings when a bail bondsman shows up telling her that her father is out on bail for producing methamphetamine, and if he doesn’t show up to court, she risks losing her house as part of the bond. Ree then goes in search of her wayward father, risking everything to prevent her and her family becoming homeless.

There’s a bleakness to Winter’s Bone that never lets up. Even during its lighter moments, which are few and far between, there is a ubiquitous, unrelenting dreariness that could drown lesser films. However, Winter’s Bone uses it to its advantage, totally enveloping you and drawing you into Ree’s struggle. This family isn’t as much living as surviving, and there is always the sense that Ree’s life could have been so much more. However, the fact that her family comes above everything else shows that there is real purpose to the character and this is film’s driving force.

The two main roles on display here are Lawrence’s Ree and her uncle, Teardrop, played by John Hawkes. Both actors are superb in their roles and well worthy of their Oscar nominations in 2011. Lawrence in particular shows that she is more than capable of handling a lead part, and it’s no surprise that bigger roles have since come her way.

Winter’s Bone isn’t the most accessible of films, and some may be put off by its somewhat slow pace and largely uneventful (not a criticism) plot. However, it’s an affecting film that will resonate with many as a tale of austerity and family struggle, and one that has a real warmth under its icy exterior.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May MarleneWhen Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes from a commune, she goes to stay with her sister but struggles to adapt to normal life. As she continues to alienate herself from those around her, her grip on reality gets looser and looser.

MMMM is apparently loosely based on the Manson Family cult, which gives the film a much more sinister undertone, one that comes to the forefront as the film progresses. We see Martha’s experiences in the commune through a series of flashbacks, each of which gets progressively unsettling. And it’s ‘unsettling’ that best describes the film. There’s not much to scare, but plenty to unnerve thanks in part to the remote rural setting and constant perturbing use of sound.

It can be rather slow paced at times and the distinction between present and past is sometimes (deliberately?) ambiguous, which may prove slightly confusing. The film’s conclusion is also likely to be contentious for many. Without giving too much away, it’s hugely open-ended and relies on the audience to fill in quite a few gaps. This abrupt ending may be frustrating for some but it does leave you mulling over the various interpretations and the possibilities of what may or may not happen.

This is Elizabeth Olsen’s second picture after 2011’s Silent House and she does a superb job throughout. As Martha (Marcy May & Marlene are names she picks up in the commune) she is perfectly on edge at all times, whilst John Hawkes as commune leader Patrick is also excellent.

MMMM is not an easy watch but it’s one that gives more the more you invest in it. Its quirky Instagrammed look becomes slightly tiresome and you do have to work hard at times, but there’s enough here to keep you intrigued to the end.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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