If you’re the sort of person who thinks a top 10 focuses too much on the number 1 and not enough on numbers 2 to 10, then you’re in luck. This year the Avenue reveals the number 1 one post before the rest of the Top 10 and the winner is… Winter’s Bone. No surprise (because we already revealed that in the title) and quite possibly a surprise because it might have been a 2010 film in your country. Not in Belgium though (release date: 19 Jan 2011) and since that’s where this blog is coming from, it’s a 2011 movie.
And it’s by Debra Granik, whom we’d never heard of. Not that amazing, given that this is only her second feature-length movie. In Winter’s Bone we follow 17-year-old Ree on her trail for her lost dad. Either the man shows up for his parole or Ree’s family may end up evicted. Given that the family exists of Ree, her two younger siblings and her sick mother, that isn’t much of an option. Soon it becomes clear that those who might know where her father is don’t feel like sharing information. Not too bad because Ree is a tough cookie. Bad because the neighbourhood is at least equally tough.
So why did this get Film of the Year? Because Jennifer Lawrence, Ree in the movie, has a doe-like quality that not only works magically with the Dutch language (the Dutch word for “doe” is “ree”) but also wonderfully clashes with the toughness of her character and the film’s setting. They say nature can be relentless… well, so are the people who have to live in the woods. The movie is also excellently shot and almost every scene where the nature settings are present are small tableaus, but one where beneath the soft blowing of the wind danger seems to loom. And this time we’re not talking about bears. Talking just causes witnesses, the tagline explains and that is very much true: the voluntary silence seems to become the actual protagonist of the film and it’s nearly as lethal as a gun. Occasionally unpleasant to watch, but never below good, the best film of 2011 is: Winter’s Bone.