Oh boy. Ree Dolly. This weekend I watched Winter’s Bone starring Jennifer Lawrence as a 17 year old living in Missouri and keeping her family afloat. She is playing caretaker to her little sister and brother (6 and 12 respectively) and her mother who is suffering from debilitating mental illness. Things are going just north of awful for her, when she finds out that her dad, Jessup, is out of jail and has a court date coming up and if he doesn’t show up, they’re going to lose the house. Ree goes on a hero’s journey to find her father and keep her family alive.
Ree makes her way through her father’s connections. They are all related by blood and by business and that business is methamphetamine production. As Ree walks from house to house, relation to relation, I noticed that at each turn she was met by a woman. The women in this film- from her best friend Gail, to Jessup’s ex-lover, to her distant possibly great aunt (?) – act as gatekeepers for the unpredictable, violent, and temperamental men in their lives. They are constantly trying to intercept Ree and make her requests more palatable to their male counterparts. I was reminded of an article I recently read about how women are expected to manage not only their emotions but the emotions of the men in their lives as well. It’s a movie filled with women enduring the abuse and anger of their men and using the little power they have to keep Ree away or in line or beaten down under the guise of doing it for her own good.
In the end, Ree’s fearlessness yields results. She starts to figure out that Jessup was murdered for snitching, but she earns the respect of his murderers by not snitching. The women reward her by taking her to cut off her own dead father’s hands as proof that he’s dead and she is allowed to keep the house. Actually I don’t even think it was necessarily fearlessness. It was just survival. In order to survive she had to keep moving and pushing. She had nothing to lose.