Thriller: a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Winter’s Bone managed to do none of those three things.  To be honest I really was not expecting a thriller, but the back of the box told me it would be, so I thought it would be an added bonus (originally I was expecting a sort of mystery).  However, coming in at just over an hour and a half, I can honestly say the movie could have been told in thirty minutes without taking anything away from it.  The story revolves around Ree, a 17 year old girl who lives with her mother (who has somehow developed a mental illness between graduating high school and being somewhere around 50 years old) and younger brother (Sonny)and sister (Ashlee).  Her father got busted for making drugs (I believe it was crystal meth, but I’m not sure since they called it “crank”), and after running away from his family he puts the house up to meet his bond.  So, Ree goes off to find him so that he can go to court, if not the house will be taken from them. 

So, she goes around to various members of her close and very extended family to see if anyone knows where to find her father.  I don’t know if the point of the movie was to show how life is in the poor parts of the Ozark Mountains, but it kind of did that.  Most of the people were on drugs and those who weren’t really couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves.  Life in the movie seems difficult, but at the same time the cast of characters are so sterile that I never found myself caring about any of them.  Having Ree’s mother never talk due to her illness essentially made her uninteresting as she just sat there.  However, Sonny and Ashlee sometimes had personality, but I think it had more to do with not wanting children to grow up in that type of world that made them have more of an impact.  Though, even then the impact was small because I couldn’t help but think the director was trying too hard to be artsy.  We get a lot of drawn out shots of scenery and a really awkwardly black and white scene that does nothing to progress the plot.

I will stress plot progression, because it was at such  a slow pace that I don’t understand how this is called a thriller.  And again I go back to characters, who were almost all carbon copies of each other.  Though, I did like Teardrop (Ree’s uncle), who was not as bland as the rest of the people in the film.  It helps that he is the brother of Ree’s father, so he is able to supply real insight into the man being chased after and does so with more believability than anyone else in the movie.  Well that’s almost true, as the army recruitment officer was a really good character and was the only one to offer logical advice.  Back to Teardrop, he was one of the few characters who understood the world they lived in and rather than just living in it seemed to want to have something to live for.  I would argue by the end of the movie he was glad he did what he did, as it opened the doors to a stronger bond with Ree, Ashlee, and Sonny.

I wanted to like this movie.  However, it was far too sterile.  The slow pacing could have worked, but there were never any moments that had an emotional impact and there were not any memorable scenes.  The main character was strangely distant, and I never felt for her.

Ultimately, I think the lack of interesting characters and relatively simple story made the movie falter far more than it misleadingly being called a thriller.