Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, Debra Granik delves into the poverty-stricken lives of Missouri hicks in 'Winter's Bone' - a part of America that's usually ignored in Hollywood. In a demanding role, the beautifully endearing Jennifer Lawrence shines through as a young lady who makes you never want to go within a mile of Missouri in your lifetime.

Seventeen-year-old Ree (Lawrence) is left to fend for herself, her two younger siblings and her mentally ill mother after her father puts their house up as collateral for his bail and then disappears.

Now mountain girl Ree must face into the Ozark wilderness in the hope of locating her rogue father. If she fails to find him within a week, her family will be thrown out into the frightening, untamed landscape of the Missouri woodlands.

In her desperate attempt to uncover his whereabouts, Ree sets about piecing together the truth about her father's desertion - including criminal relatives and law-evading crystal meth manufacturers - before it's too late. How far will she go in her quest to unearth the truth?

Without difficulty, Lawrence manages to portray the heartbreaking emotions Ree, the dejected daughter, must face after her father strips her of her childhood dreams and forces her to grow up far too fast. In saying that, Lawrence's part is made easier by the help of some pretty remarkable performances from her co-stars. John Hawkes excites as Ree's frightening uncle Teardrop and Dale Dickey is breathtaking in her fear-inducing role as the slimy Merab.

While it's true that the plot is unique and the performances are faultless, I'm still somewhat conflicted in my thoughts about 'Winter's Bone'. On the one hand the sorrow and anxiousness you feel for the characters cannot be ignored, but on the other hand, the film seems to just trudge along, trying in vain to fill in empty spaces and awkward silences. With some extremely disturbing scenes and a pretty bleak ending, it's hard to decide whether it's a feeling of satisfaction or one of revulsion on leaving the cinema.

Whatever your opinion, there's no denying that it's a powerful storyline that will keep you hooked in anticipation of what's coming next. There's one thing for sure: you will definitely think twice about messing with an American Hick after seeing this haunting film.

Sarah Carty