I wanted see this based on reading good things about it, so I watched it on Netflix last night. The story is about a 17 year old girl, Ree, who is trying to find her meth dealing father, as the family home is about to be taken away from them by bail bondsmen.
To complicate things, her father might be dead, her mother is nearly catatonic, and Ree has to take care of her younger brother and sister. Everyone in this movie is unlikeable except for Ree's siblings. All the characters are portrayed as violent, drug using, hillbillies. Now maybe this reflects true in certain families in Missouri, where this film is set, but it's not good for the main character to be so unpleasant. Yes, I thought she was an unlikeable character. Ree had been forced to become the caregiver to her mother and younger sibs, but other than doing that, which was less an act of nobility than an act of necessity, she displayed little that I felt was either smart or appealing.
The entire tone of the movie is somber. There are no indications that any of these characters will grow or have anything better in their lives. Everyone is resigned to the roles they've been born into. Drugs are all that these characters have to motivate them, either by selling, using, or manufacturing them.
As the movie came to an end, there was no redemption for anyone, no epiphanies, nothing learned by their suffering, and no hope for a future different than the past. It's a movie that shows only bleakness, only sorrow. The lack of any glimpse that Ree has some chance to escape this hell is what ultimately led me to the conclusion that this movie wasn't good. The acting is fine, and technically it's decent, but I didn't like anything about this movie or any of the characters. If I want to see stories about people doing shitty things to one another, all I need do is turn the news on. I expect more of fiction than to merely tell me how fucked up some people that I don't like are, or that drugs can fuck people up and lead to misery. I know that - now show me something that has at least some revelatory quality to it. That would be a big step in the right direction, unlike Winter's Bone, which just seemed content to revel in shit and try to pass it off as art.