Seventeen-year-old Ree, forced to drop out of high school in order to take care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings, is faced with an even more serious problem when her absentee, methamphetamine-cooking father uses the family's Missouri homestead to cover his bail bond. And, daddy's unlikely to show for trial, so the property is all but lost. In desperation, Ree begins to search for her father to try to make him show for his trial. In the process, she must rely on the network of her large, extended family living in the Ozark hill country, most of whose members are hostile to her desperate situation.
A mystery as stark and spare as the rocky Ozark oak forest in which it is set, Winter's Bone succeeds best as an amazing character study of Ree and her kin, isolated, suspicious, and stricken with poverty.
There's also an incredible sense of place here, too. Ree's despair over losing the homestead--in addition to the fact that she and her family will be homeless--is further exacerbated by her awareness that the 100-year-old oak forest that has sustained her family for generations will be cut down for timber.
Winter's Bone was awarded several prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, and for good reason.