The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Fearless Young Women

with 6 comments

I know it’s a little bit silly and childish, but I can’t help feeling a little put off when a movie gets unanimous praise from just about the entire corps of critics. You know, when the DVD envelop is covered with maximum grades from everyone that matters and the claims about “best movie of the year” that comes with it. Or when the user reviews at IMDB consist of almost only 10 star ratings, apart from a few one star reviews from people who just didn’t get it.

I used to be a punk rocker once upon a time and I suppose some personality features never change. I don’t want to see and love the same movies like anyone else; I want to cling to the illusion that I’m a truly special and unique snowflake.

In the case of Winter’s Bone, this was obviously out of the question. I’m late to the party and the DVD cover is an orgy in five-star reviews.  I feel as if I’m the last person on Earth to discover it. However I must admit that if I’m going to be a rebel, I’d better save it for some other movie. Because I truly loved it and the praise and the rewards it has received were well deserved.

Enchanting story
Some of the reviews gave the impression that Winter’s Bone would be on the slow side, which made me a bit weary. I’m not proud of it, but some movies, which are more subtle than eventful, can make me rather sleepy. I have especially embarrassing memories from when I saw  ”Wings of Desire”  – or rather DIDN’T see it, since I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I knew it was good and that I probably would have liked it, but I just couldn’t make it, no matter how much I pinched myself. My eyes went on strike.

However I needn’t have worried this time. I was enchanted by the 17 year old heroine’s fight for survival and her fearless hunt for her father in a world and landscape where the label “miserable” feels inadequate. The story had my full attention right from the first to the last screen.

Setting a trend?
After watching the movie I listened to an interview with the director Debra Granik, who talked passionately about the lack of good, strong, female leading characters in coming-of-age movies. More often than not, they’re victims, suffering from abuse or being self destructive with some kind of disorder. Winter’s Bone was a conscious effort to do something different, and being the mother of two teenage girls, I salute her for it. It’s about time that the movie industry acknowledges that there are young women who are capable of caring for themselves, on their own terms.

By the way, isn’t it quite an interesting coincidence that Winter’s Bone came the same year as True Grit, starring another strong, young woman? I couldn’t help thinking that Winter’s Bone is a bit like a crossover between True Grit and The Road. In both cases we have the story of a girl who is doing what a girl’s got to do. But in Winter’s Bone, she’s not doing it for honor and revenge, but for survival, and the world is almost as barren and hostile as in The Road.

If those movies are setting a trend in how you portray young women, I hope it’s here to stay.

Winter’s Bone (Granik, US, 2010). My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

July 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

Posted in Winter's Bone

6 Responses

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  1. […] who can care very well for themselves, such as Hanna in the movie with the same name or Ree in Winter’s Bone. But the further back in film history we go, the more likely is it that the main female character […]


    And on top of all that, this film concludes with a totally surprising and absolutely horrendous ending, never before seen in the history of cinema. That in itself is remarkable.

    And I do totally agree with you that this film is a cinematic masterpiece, of a kind very seldom seen. I was absolutely riveted and could hardly even keep my critical faculties alive. Then again, I didn’t need to. There was no reason.

    All the best,


    January 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    • And once again it’s one of the smaller productions that turns out to be the best. It had a 2 million dollar budget. No special effects. But good storytelling and acting can take you so much longer.


      January 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  3. Good storytelling, good acting, and films about *people* (as opposed to films consisting of special effects) do not only take you longer, in my opinion – they take you all the way. This film is, in my book, a real film, as opposed to fireworks displays like 2012 or Independence Day or The Fifth Element … and so on, and so forth. The latter bore me absolutely numb. I become catatonic. When the credits begin to roll at the end of such a film, I wake up from a state that is life-threatening and would have taken my life had the film been twenty minutes longer.

    Another fairly recent, indie masterpiece, on a par with Winter’s Bone but a very different film indeed, is A Single Man by by Tom Ford. Not to be missed.

    All the best,


    January 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    • A Single Man. Never heard of. Noted and put in my mental “to-watch” queue. Thank you!

      As of fireworks I must admit that I can enjoy those too. Both in the real world and as a metaphore. I like the low profile realistic pieces like this one, but I can also embrace more specacular block-buster-like movies. It depends on the mood. But I’d give you right that in most cases it’s movies like Winter’s Bone that will become companions for life.


      January 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  4. […] 6. Animal Kingdom This Australian crime drama had some amazing acting performances. Strangely enough it never made it into a theatre in Sweden outside of the festival scene. […]

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