Winter’s Bone shows the kind of cachet that money can and cannot buy. Sure it has a Sundance film festival stamp of approval and a nice look with solid production values, but Winter’s Bone also sports a strong lead performance backed by an at times gripping storyline.

Winter’s Bone bears some superficial similarities to another indie drama from a few years ago Frozen River – main plot unwinds in rural areas, both feature tough females – however the threads only appear to match. In WB we are thrust into a world of backwoods intrigue where hillbillies are not people missing teeth or speaking with awkward accents. Other than some ramshackle surroundings the children, women and men seem like any other small town residents. Only the people Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) has to deal with in her Ozark community are more likely to be guarding meth labs than making moonshine.

At 17 Ree has assumed the care of her 12-year old brother and even younger sister as well as her invalid mom. Ree’s father has jumped bail and put up their house and property against the bond. The majority of the film deals with Ree trying to track down her Dad amongst unfriendly relatives.

Like the best kind of movie hero Ree takes her lumps a few times before she arrives at the finishing line. When she gets the crap knocked out of her by some fierce chicks she wears her bruised lip for the rest of the film like a proud medal. Winter’s Bone arrives this weekend in an exclusive at the River Oaks Theater.

— Michael Bergeron