"Winter's Bone" is a rare movie, superbly acted, quiet and genuine. It's an homage to the gnarly hills of the Ozarks in southern Missouri, along the Arkansas border, without mocking or shaming its rural roots. Even the film's coarsest moments are buttressed by beautiful music.
Director Debra Granik juxtaposes the gross parking lots of convenience stores, cattle auctions, bloody beatings and the dirty interiors of homes plagued by meth addicts with scenes of a homebound bluegrass picking session, of protagonist Ree Dolly re-discovering her father's old banjo and her uncle, for a moment, trying to pick it back up. Country traditionals like "Farther Along" and "Missouri Waltz," and original compositions on mandolin, fiddle and guitar poke up as the youngest Dolly kids leap from hay bales, and treks across frozen grass and over rusty barbed wire end at dilapidated barns and shacks.
Some generations of families there, as the film points out, are spoilt due to the influx of meth, and damning poverty. But familial mythologies and traditions, rites of passage, transcend such modern madnesses in order to tell the story of Ree and her search for her father's bones, in order to save her family. A warrior's journey like hers deserved a righteous musical soundtrack, which had the expert touch of music editor Dan Evans Farkas and composer Dickon Hinchliffe, who was also a founder of the band Tindersticks.
As Granik did research with actual families and residences in Christian and Taney Counties in Missouri, she would walk into rooms where there were just as many guitars as there were guns, which were plentiful. Like her movie, it was a mixture of the sacred and profane. "Music making for the sake of music making is alive and well in the Ozark region," she said.
Local Rick Redding pulled together the players in the picking session scene, as well as the bar band that sounded almost too good for its surroundings. Meredith Cisco, who sang in the former, is as authentic a bard as you'll get.