Dir. Debra Granik. USA. 2010.

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Critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated for acting, writing and music - the winner of the 2010 Grand Jury prize at Sundance, arrives on DVD from Artificial Eye. Starring Jennifer Lawrence in a breakout star making performance, the film is gritty and tense in the American tradition of Hollywood crime thrillers, but in the mould of independent cinema predecessors, the film shines a light on a part of America you have not seen before, and but for the commitment of the film-makers would remain out of the spotlight.

Ree Dolly (Lawrence), is 17 years old and lives at home with her ill mother and two younger siblings, after a visit from a local police officier she has to find her missing father, who has skipped bail and has put up their family home up as collateral; if he does not attend before his court hearing, the house will be repossessed.
Set in the Ozark woods of Missouri, Ree embarks upon an odyessey to find him and find answers amongst a close knit but tight lipped community, the code of silence is paramount when draped across the majestic landscapes that paint a picture of a weary world amongst all these questions and allegations.  Ignoring threats and advice from friends and family, Ree gradually pieces together the reason for her father's disappearance.

The film is directed by Debra Granik ('Down to the Bone'), who adapted Daniel Woodrell's novel with Anne Rosellini for the screen, they bring the thriller elements to the film and nature plays a part on film; at times you can feel the cold enveloping you as Ree plods on to her next port of call.

At times brutal in its starkness, and with flashes of genuine violence; the film does not foresake a sense of humour for its grittiness. At one time in the story, Ree along with a friend has to cut hands off of a dead character to help identify the body - Ree holds the arm out of the water whilst her accomplice chainsaws off the hand. Once done, Ree lets out a wail at the gruesomeness (the director, cleverly does not show bone or blood, only heightening the sound of the tool being used and facial expressions of Lawrence to convey the fear occuring), she drops the body into the water. Only for the accomplice to ask why did she let go, as they need both hands for proof.  A moment of Lynch-esque humour in a tale of bleak midwinter.

Orginal in its depiction of this wild frontier, and helped by the beautiful soundtrack of mountain music that indicates a place and a release for the community of robust individuals.  The film belongs to the 20 year old Lawrence, who acts beyond her and her character's years; being mother to her siblings whilst her mother is ill, strong and determined in her attempts to track down the truth and not backing down from anybody.  Deservedly, Lawrence has been nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars in a couple of weeks, as has the Adapted Screenplay, but she was joined on the nomination list by John Hawkes who plays her Uncle Teardrop, a mixture of menace and terror (somewhat akin to Robert Mitchum in 'Night of the Hunter'), who may provide the answers to his brothers whereabouts.  As is the music nominated, as original and as fresh as the film it helps score.

A film that hopefully will not fall off of the radar anytime soon, the DVD release comes a long time after its theatrical release in late September, a testament to the staying power of a film that from humble beginnings can proudly sit at the top table in Hollywood, as the film itself received one of the ten Best Picture nominations, affirming it as the independent film of 2010.

Released by Artificial Eye on 31 January, certified 15; the DVD is £15.99 RRP, Blu-Ray £19.99 RRP
Jamie Garwood

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