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For my geography class this semester, we were assigned to write a movie review concerning the geographical aspects of the film. I chose the Academy Award nominated film Winter’s Bone for mine.

When one thinks of geographical movies, Winter’s Bone does not usually come to mind. However, due to the enormous amount of detail in regards to cultural geography, this movie is perfectly suited for a geographical review. The movie won several awards and was nominated for four Academy Awards for the year 2011. Its excellence lies more in the acting than the cinematography which sets it apart from most standard movies. But how does this movie relate to geography?

This film takes place in the Ozarks of Missouri in Christian County (it was filmed in this county as well as Taney County) in recent times (IMDb). At one point in the film, a sign is shown that reads Christian County; that’s how I knew which county the story is based in. The context is incredibly important for the film. Placing the story in Christian County makes it a story that happens in the Ozark hills of Missouri, an area known for being very rural and remote. These are conditions which allow for the making of methamphetamines. Although the production of meth is never shown, it is alluded to constantly throughout the movie. Moreover, this rural area helps the viewer understand why Ree Dolly has such a hard time feeding her family and adds to the reality of the film. Debra Granik, the producer, states:

 I think that Jennifer Lawrence was given these very real settings in which to function and very real obstacles. She really had to run the hill. She really had to wrangle her onscreen brother and sister in certain things. She did have logs and different kinds of animals to contend with. And the fact that she had these real-life tasks I think we started to feel confident that everything the actress was doing would have a rigor to it and you would sense that she was not just breathing through experiences. (Moratis 1).

Geographically speaking, this location is important because in the hollows and hills of such a remote and wild place, it is easy to hide such an illegal operation, just as the Appalachian Mountains are conducive to the making of moonshine.

This movie was produced here in the United States by an independent producer and therefore displays a different aura than most American movies. It concentrates more on character development, especially Jennifer Lawrence’s character, and relies on the scenery and the dialogue to engage the audience in the reality of the plot. It lacks the glitz and glamour and special effects of most American movies but its glory is in the acting of its several characters especially Jennifer Lawrence. This is why it won so many awards.

            While the scenery and setting is important in establishing the reality of the film, the cultural geography of the film is very rich in detail. The Ozarks is populated by mostly whites who eke out a living among the hills by farming, hunting, fishing and making illegal drugs. Although fishing is never shown, the other three practices are either seen directly or alluded to. This area is poverty stricken and so people have to survive off the land as Ree does. The people live on fairly sizeable tracts of land where they raise chickens, horses and cattle; this is seen quite frequently in the film. Moreover, the people eat the wild animals they find in the woods such as deer and squirrels. Ree and her siblings hunt for and clean squirrels to fry and the neighbors bring over venison to keep the Dolly children from starving. The culture of the region is also present in the home life. It is a patriarchal society with relatives living in close proximity and working together to make sure everyone survives. The men (and even some of the women) are abusive towards those who don’t obey their wishes and this is seen many times in the movie where most of the abuse is directed towards Ree. Their homes are often broken down or in some shabby state and there are often old cars lying around in the yard. This is common in rural areas through the US. Drinking and drugs are very common in such a region and are often synomous with the culture of the region. Meth is a central part of the plot since Ree’s father is supposed to have been making it. The adults of the families have been involved in the crime in one way or another and therefore stick together to keep it a secret. This is crucial to the plot since Ree is incredibly stubborn to find out what happened to her dad. Someone else remarks not having been drunk in a while; that she has given it up. Moreover, the culture of this area is present in the music in the film. Most American films are marked by a soundtrack which is constantly played throughout the film and goes along with much of the key events. This film has some music but it is not constantly playing. The musical culture of the region is primarily country and bluegrass, both of which are displayed in small doses in the film. A family plays bluegrass in their home, country music is played in a bar, and a banjo is played at the end of the film. These are a few among the many cultural items found in the film. It would seem that the story being presented is not only of Ree and her attempts to find her dad and keep her family alive but also a story of how folks live in this remote part of the United States.

            Physical geography is heavily present since the movie was filmed in the real Ozarks and the remoteness of the hills adds to the plot by making meth production easy to hide. Ree is seen climbing hills and trekking through the woods constantly throughout the film.

            The boundaries present in the film are important but really only in the social aspect. Fences form some physical boundaries but they are not of great importance since everyone seems to jump or step over them. They only hold in the livestock. Social boundaries are different. Once crossed, the wrath of an entire family is brought down upon the transgressor. This is crucial to the plot since Ree has a habit of breaking such boundaries more than once which incurs the wrath of the Milton family as well as her uncle once she meddles in other people’s business to find her father.

            The textbook has very little information about the area in which the film is set: the Ozarks. However, from the textbook we learn that the state of Missouri lies in the region called the Continental Interior, a region predominated by agriculture (de Blij 126). Although this refers more to the Great Plains region further north of the Ozarks, the only legal occupation the people in the film engage in seems to be agriculture. The textbook also alludes to the problem of depopulation in the area which results in the exodus of young people and the prevalence of older and poorer folks (de Blij 127). This is certainly true in the film as most of the people in the film are elderly and quite poor. Their poverty is evident in their living and diet; having little to eat in the winter but game and potatoes.

There are some key events that occur in the movie. Ree Dolly, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is faced with the difficulty of feeding and providing for her family while her mother is ill and her father is absent. A sheriff comes to tell her that her father is out on bail and his court date is due in a week. Should he not show up, the law will get the land and the house. Ree then goes to find her dad and goes from house to house among her relatives asking for him. Folks start to get angry with her stubbornness and poking around and the Miltons end up beating her at one point. She is told her dad is dead but she insists on finding him. Her uncle and the Milton ladies end up helping her toward the end of the film once she finds her dad dead in a lake. She takes the hands to the sheriff and finally she is proven right and gets to keep the land.

In conclusion, this film was very well received and critically acclaimed. It won several awards and according to Rotten Tomatoes, this film received a 94% rating and was judged as “Bleak, haunting, and yet still somehow hopeful, Winter’s Bone is writer-director Debra Granik’s best work yet — and it boasts an incredible, starmaking performance from Jennifer Lawrence” (Rotten Tomatoes). Geographically speaking, this film didn’t concentrate as much on the physical side as much as the cultural aspect but it shows that filming geography is much easier than writing it in a book. One merely has to use scenery either in a real place or a set and let it speak for itself rather than use many words to describe it to us. It is also interesting to note that throughout the film, the climate is quite cold and bleak which adds considerably to the overall aura of the film. This was indeed an excellent film.

Works Cited

de Blij, H.J. The World Today: Concepts and Region in Geography. 126-7.

Moraitis, Andrew. “Down To The Bone”. News Hit: November 10, 2010.

Winters Bone. Film 2010

“Winter’s Bone”. IMDb.

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When one thinks of geographical movies, Winter’s Bone does not usually come to mind. However, due to the enormous amount of detail in regards to cultural geography, this movie is perfectly suited for a geographical review. The movie won several awards and was nominated for four Academy Awards for the year 2011. Its excellence lies more in the acting than the cinematography which sets it apart from most standard movies. But how does this movie relate to geography?

This film takes place in the Ozarks of Missouri in Christian County (it was filmed in this county as well as Taney County) in recent times (IMDb). At one point in the film, a sign is shown that reads Christian County; that’s how I knew which county the story is based in. The context is incredibly important for the film. Placing the story in Christian County makes it a story that happens in the Ozark hills of Missouri, an area known for being very rural and remote. These are conditions which allow for the making of methamphetamines. Although the production of meth is never shown, it is alluded to constantly throughout the movie. Moreover, this rural area helps the viewer understand why Ree Dolly has such a hard time feeding her family and adds to the reality of the film. Debra Granik, the producer, states:

 I think that Jennifer Lawrence was given these very real settings in which to function and very real obstacles. She really had to run the hill. She really had to wrangle her onscreen brother and sister in certain things. She did have logs and different kinds of animals to contend with. And the fact that she had these real-life tasks I think we started to feel confident that everything the actress was doing would have a rigor to it and you would sense that she was not just breathing through experiences. (Moratis 1).

Geographically speaking, this location is important because in the hollows and hills of such a remote and wild place, it is easy to hide such an illegal operation, just as the Appalachian Mountains are conducive to the making of moonshine. 

This movie was produced here in the United States by an independent producer and therefore displays a different aura than most American movies. It concentrates more on character development, especially Jennifer Lawrence’s character, and relies on the scenery and the dialogue to engage the audience in the reality of the plot. It lacks the glitz and glamour and special effects of most American movies but its glory is in the acting of its several characters especially Jennifer Lawrence. This is why it won so many awards.

            While the scenery and setting is important in establishing the reality of the film, the cultural geography of the film is very rich in detail. The Ozarks is populated by mostly whites who eke out a living among the hills by farming, hunting, fishing and making illegal drugs. Although fishing is never shown, the other three practices are either seen directly or alluded to. This area is poverty stricken and so people have to survive off the land as Ree does. The people live on fairly sizeable tracts of land where they raise chickens, horses and cattle; this is seen quite frequently in the film. Moreover, the people eat the wild animals they find in the woods such as deer and squirrels. Ree and her siblings hunt for and clean squirrels to fry and the neighbors bring over venison to keep the Dolly children from starving. The culture of the region is also present in the home life. It is a patriarchal society with relatives living in close proximity and working together to make sure everyone survives. The men (and even some of the women) are abusive towards those who don’t obey their wishes and this is seen many times in the movie where most of the abuse is directed towards Ree. Their homes are often broken down or in some shabby state and there are often old cars lying around in the yard. This is common in rural areas through the US. Drinking and drugs are very common in such a region and are often synomous with the culture of the region. Meth is a central part of the plot since Ree’s father is supposed to have been making it. The adults of the families have been involved in the crime in one way or another and therefore stick together to keep it a secret. This is crucial to the plot since Ree is incredibly stubborn to find out what happened to her dad. Someone else remarks not having been drunk in a while; that she has given it up. Moreover, the culture of this area is present in the music in the film. Most American films are marked by a soundtrack which is constantly played throughout the film and goes along with much of the key events. This film has some music but it is not constantly playing. The musical culture of the region is primarily country and bluegrass, both of which are displayed in small doses in the film. A family plays bluegrass in their home, country music is played in a bar, and a banjo is played at the end of the film. These are a few among the many cultural items found in the film. It would seem that the story being presented is not only of Ree and her attempts to find her dad and keep her family alive but also a story of how folks live in this remote part of the United States.

            Physical geography is heavily present since the movie was filmed in the real Ozarks and the remoteness of the hills adds to the plot by making meth production easy to hide. Ree is seen climbing hills and trekking through the woods constantly throughout the film.

            The boundaries present in the film are important but really only in the social aspect. Fences form some physical boundaries but they are not of great importance since everyone seems to jump or step over them. They only hold in the livestock. Social boundaries are different. Once crossed, the wrath of an entire family is brought down upon the transgressor. This is crucial to the plot since Ree has a habit of breaking such boundaries more than once which incurs the wrath of the Milton family as well as her uncle once she meddles in other people’s business to find her father.

            The textbook has very little information about the area in which the film is set: the Ozarks. However, from the textbook we learn that the state of Missouri lies in the region called the Continental Interior, a region predominated by agriculture (de Blij 126). Although this refers more to the Great Plains region further north of the Ozarks, the only legal occupation the people in the film engage in seems to be agriculture. The textbook also alludes to the problem of depopulation in the area which results in the exodus of young people and the prevalence of older and poorer folks (de Blij 127). This is certainly true in the film as most of the people in the film are elderly and quite poor. Their poverty is evident in their living and diet; having little to eat in the winter but game and potatoes.

There are some key events that occur in the movie. Ree Dolly, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is faced with the difficulty of feeding and providing for her family while her mother is ill and her father is absent. A sheriff comes to tell her that her father is out on bail and his court date is due in a week. Should he not show up, the law will get the land and the house. Ree then goes to find her dad and goes from house to house among her relatives asking for him. Folks start to get angry with her stubbornness and poking around and the Miltons end up beating her at one point. She is told her dad is dead but she insists on finding him. Her uncle and the Milton ladies end up helping her toward the end of the film once she finds her dad dead in a lake. She takes the hands to the sheriff and finally she is proven right and gets to keep the land.

In conclusion, this film was very well received and critically acclaimed. It won several awards and according to Rotten Tomatoes, this film received a 94% rating and was judged as “Bleak, haunting, and yet still somehow hopeful, Winter’s Bone is writer-director Debra Granik’s best work yet — and it boasts an incredible, starmaking performance from Jennifer Lawrence” (Rotten Tomatoes). Geogrpahically speaking, this film didn’t concentrate as much on the physical side as much as the cultural aspect but it shows that filming geography is much easier than writing it in a book. One merely has to use scenery either in a real place or a set and let it speak for itself rather than use many words to describe it to us. It is also interesting to note that throughout the film, the climate is quite cold and bleak which adds considerably to the overall aura of the film. This was indeed an excellent film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

de Blij, H.J. The World Today: Concepts and Region in Geography. 126-7.

Moraitis, Andrew. “Down To The Bone”. News Hit: November 10, 2010.

Winters Bone. Film 2010

“Winter’s Bone”. IMDb.

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