Winter's Bone ★★★★

A solidly-crafted film with excellent performances, this film is light on the plot and heavy on the atmosphere -- "world-building," if you like, though using that term to describe a culture that (more or less) actually exists seems patronizing. It is a culture wholly alien and a little frightening to me -- at somehow more of a remove from what I know even than actual foreign cultures, given that these people are American, just not part of an America that I, personally, am familiar with.

Yet what strikes me most about this film is that, despite its bleakness (both in terms of story and color palette), it is entirely optimistic. It believes in the goodness of humanity, and in every person's capacity to do the right thing when the chips are down -- no matter how base or loathsome that person may be in their day to day life. It's not necessarily a worldview I subscribe to, but especially in days like these, it's one that I appreciate seeing represented -- and particularly in such a matter of fact, non-preachy or saccharine way.