Winter’s Bone: an old-before-her-time teenager must hunt down her estranged father in order to keep her house, and troubled family together. The general structure of almost any film is: set up, complication(s), and resolution. In Winter’s Bone all three sections consist of Jennifer Lawrence running around in the wilderness looking for her dad, which is so flat and one-dimensional that it tires very quickly. Almost every scene plays out like this – “Is my dad here?” “Can’t tell you child”, “tell me”, “no” – repeat x40. It’s also tear-inducingly bleak in it’s visuals and style – everything greyed out and void of any interest. It’s all a bit Cormac McCarthy-esque, not unlike The Road. Lawrence is decent – in a Hungry–Games style role – but the standout for me is her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) who is absolutely spellbinding. What with all of the plaudits this comes with, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated by it. A very, very solemn version of “Dude, where’s my Dad?”
The Next Three Days: When his wife is sent to prison for a murder she didn’t commit, an everyman embarks on a long-winded jailbreak from the county’s most secure prison. The brunt of the film is Crowe scoping out the prison and dealing with Pittsburgh’s criminal underbelly – making it essentially the Russell Crowe show; which is great because he’s Russell Crowe, but bad because he’s one of those superb actors that manages to elevate otherwise average films above their natural place (see State of Play). The tone jumps up and down, with up to 30 minutes of slow-moving planning, then Crowe getting his action on for a minute or two. When you’re watching it, most of it seems plausible at a stretch, then you think back to everything that a sleepy English lecturer actually did… and feel violated! Also, unless I’m an idiot, they didn’t reveal one question: how did the blood get on to the back of her jacket?! Despite being pretty well made you get the sense that everyone here’s underachieving, and that it’s a film for the sake of being a film, with some big names… for the sake of having the big names (Neeson is in one scene, yet gets 3rd billing.) It’s also more about The First Three Years than The Next Three Days!!