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Haven't Seen It? It's on Netflix: Down to the Bone

Updated on January 26, 2015

Down to the Bone (2004)

Director: Debra Granik

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Hugh Dillon

Runtime: 104 min

In her first outing, Debra Granik's debut feature explores many of the same themes of isolation and addiction's destructive power as her brilliant 2010 country noir, Winter's Bone. Vera Farmiga plays Irene, a mother of two struggling with a long term cocaine habit, who checks herself into to rehab in an effort to finally kick her drug dependency. Her recovery, and life, become complicated through her meeting of Bob, a rehab nurse and former heroine addict who tries to support Irene while trying to stay clean himself. The film charts Irene's ups and downs as she struggles to get clean, but more importantly, stay that way.

Shot in DV, the film features natural light that produces a washed out color palette, as well as distortion inherent in the digital medium that is intentionally hard on the eyes. Granik's photographic choices create a stark atmosphere and reinforces the unflinching storyline. For a film that was designed in both content and style to be difficult to watch, Down to the Bone is surprisingly engrossing. This is mostly due to Vera Farmiga's powerhouse performance that fills every moment in the film with Irene's subtle anxiety and desperation; Irene doesn't have dramatic breakdowns or screaming fits, yet her eyes are filled with a constant worry that something will trigger a craving that she will not be able to resist. Farmiga gives Irene a humanity that is captivating, and makes the audience totally empathize with her struggles.

Down to the Bone is a film that tries to honestly portray the nature of addiction. As Granik puts it, it is an attempt to show that an addict's storyline does not "form a V shape", but rather "it resembles an EKG"; Irene's demons are constantly pushing her to relapse, and she knows that there will never be a cathartic moment in which she finally overcomes her addiction. Coupled with Farmiga's tremendous performance, Granik does a commendable job in taking a film that is just over an hour and a half long and providing a glimpse into what is to be a lifelong struggle.

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