In director Debra Granik's unflinching noir drama set deep in the Ozarks, resilient teen Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) goes on the trail of her missing, drug-dealing father when his absence jeopardizes the family's safety. Her deadbeat dad has a key court date pending, and Ree is determined that he show up -- despite the objections of the insular Dolly clan. The film earned Oscar and Independent Spirit Award nods for Best Picture and for Lawrence.
Don't have any experience with meth cookers, and limited experience with ridge runners, but this seems like a believable story with excellent natural actors and a great soundtrack. I don't know whether the actors are well-disguised Shakespeareans, local talent or just locals, but every word, every tone, every inflection seems perfect.
In every encounter, our heroine faces first, a distant flat kind of familial sympathy with a warning to stop now, second, a quiet directly delivered threat, and third, an unflinchingly delivered follow-through on the the threat. Her doggedness is not rewarded as it normally is in Hollywood, but brutally knocked back on its heels, until some kind of resolution is achieved, more through exasperation than sympathy. Interspersed are a few heartbreaking scenes, especially with the Army recruiter, where we are reminded that, once she is out of her element, she is still a backward ignorant child.
I agree with others that John Hawkes as Uncle Teardrop is excellent. When he and the sheriff square off through a rear view mirror and he asks, - is this gonna be our time? - its the most chilling thing since No Country for Old Men.
Revealingly, in the end Dolly Ree has gained no respect for a decent-enough sheriff or for anyone except a few others up on the ridge. Back in her element, her moment gone, she will probably become a slightly more decent version of her tormentors.
I wonder at those who complain that this is slow. It is slow like the four guys sauntering up offering to help you change your flat tire at midnight in a strange town. Watch this back to back with The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virgina, and be thankful for your parents.