After being pleasantly surprised that Winter's Bone got an Oscar nod (surprised, both because the film was so low-buzz and it was one of the few films I actually saw this year), I paused to consider why? Why did the Academy folks recognize it, but moreso, why did I agree that it was one of the most moving films I've seen in a long time?
Yes, yes, the simple yet mind-twisting plot, the Deliverance-like setting and characters, the sinister drug-dealing undertones, and the heart-wrenching dilemmas faced by my new favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence, the lead character in the film. All those standard "good movie" things.
Until it finally dawned on me: The real reason this film got to me was because it touches on all the elements of what family is, and what it truly means to be a good mom.
Funny enough, the film is not really about mothers at all.
No big spoilers here, only set-up, so if you want to know absolutely nothing about the movie, stop here.
Without giving too much away, 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence plays Rhee, an Ozark Mountain girl who is 17 going on 42 in the strength and maturity departments. I guess you'd have to be strong living where she does, in a shack in the middle of nowhere amongst a community of drug dealers and losers. She owns one pair of ripped jeans and wears a ratty woodsman's jacket that looks like it belongs to her dad -- when he manages to stay out of jail.
All she wants to do is get out of her destitute, depressing-as-hell life and join the Army for a fresh start. But her love and obligation to her family -- namely her younger brother and sister -- keeps her home, where she spends her days getting the kids to school, chopping wood, shooting and skinning squirrels for dinner, and taking care her mentally ill mother.
But Rhee is clearly the ideal mother figure in this film, while her biological mother assumes the role of infant, who needs to be fed, bathed, and cared for by Rhee. Suffice it to say, Rhee's not your average crap-talking teen. She's everything I want my daughter to grow up to be, and everything I wish I was as a mother.
The only other major mother figure in the film is Rhee's best friend, Gail, the type you'd most likely see starring on Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant.
Dysfunctional mothers. Teen mothers. Defacto mothers who don't want to be mothers. Are you sensing a theme here? Even if you aren't a mom, I strongly suggest renting this film. It touches the heart and teaches about love, whether you are a parent or not. And not without a good deal of suspense, thrills, chills, blood, and punches, so the guys will be into it too.
All of the internal and external struggles eventually lead up to what is the climax of the film, where Rhee has to do the unthinkable in order to keep her family together. You'll have to rent the flick to find out what that is. I wonder if you would do it. I wonder if I even could?
Have you seen Winter's Bone? Are you going to rent it?