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Snitches Get More Than Stitches In Winter's Bone.

Updated on November 9, 2013

A Code of Silence Across All Classes and All Cultures.

You would think that only the hip-hop/rap urban culture has this code of silence. As far as I know, that is the only culture that sings about it openly. And sings about it openly to all other groups to hear. When I worked at the group home for adolescent males in Baltimore City, the young men gave me quite an education about snitching in the city. However, after working social work for almost two decades, I have come to realize that the “don’t talk to strangers” code of silence is more about keeping the secrets of our group safe from outsiders, more than it is about teaching our children about stranger danger. This code of silence is about being guarded with people due to religion, culture, class, color, and authority. It is especially prevalent when there is some type of abuse, neglect, or criminal activity going on. But it is most important to understand that some sort of “code of silence” occurs everywhere. There is a suspenseful, raw, truthful depiction of dysfunctional levels of loyalty and what happens when people snitch. A story of the harsh reminders that keep people in line and prevent them from talking. If you wonder if “people like this really exist” watch the news with an open mind and higher level of awareness. You’ll see that they do.

The Story and Characters:

Beautifully (in a stark way) filmed in the Ozark mountains. Written and directed by Debra Granik. Adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel. I have not read the novel. I wish I had. And I probably will at some point. The scenery, locations, wildlife, and “costumes” in the film are all about as real as it gets. Nothing seemed out of place in that setting. I’m not from the Ozarks, but I’ve spent time in similar environments. Everything fit in; from the game being prepared for meal, to the wood splitter, to the joint that was given as a gift to make a walk more bearable.

Jessup Dolly. A husband, father of three children, and missing main character. Everyone was looking for Jessup. Including Ree. She needed her “daddy”. Because, in large part, he was a meth “cooker”, he wasn’t easy to find. He clearly would not win any “parent of the year” awards.

“Momma” Dolly. Her name was mentioned once that I recall, but I can’t recollect what it is. To me she was “momma”, period. And she was battling her own demons throughout the film. Almost as absent as Jessup.

Ree Dolly, a Dolly “bred and buttered”, is a young girl torn between hoping to escape her very hard living situation and staying to care for her beloved family members. All the while, extended family members remind her of the risk of talking to outsiders. Even though it is those outsiders that may make or break her living situation. Ree is tougher and more resilient than many adults. Something that often occurs, really, when children are placed in the role of adults in harsh situations.

Teardrop is Ree’s uncle. An unlikeable, frightening, and yet supportive (in his own way) family member. I found myself liking him, and feeling empathetic toward him, but empathetic from a far distance. Again, there are uncles like this in the world. Plenty of them.


There are a small handful of movies that I love. I watch them over and over and the wonder of the movie never wears off. This is one of those movies for me. Plenty of folks won’t like this film. It’s brutal and harsh. And shows things that will make stomachs turn. My Vegan friends would probably not be able to stomach this movie. It is more frightening than most horror films I’ve seen lately.But I find that all of those gorey things are in context and not some type of how-many-ways-can-blood-be-splashed-around “thriller”. The movie is gritty, gruesome, raw, and sad. However, I find Ree’s resilience, loyalty, and love of family uplifting and renewing. I am reminded that I have little to complain about in my life and I look again at the simple pleasures and loving family members that surround me.

More Information:

Look at the reviews on Amazon. Be careful of any spoilers. I watched this without knowing a thing about it, and for me that is the best way to watch a movie. But if you like to know more details before you watch a movie you can check out these links. This NPR On Location is an article that gives more details of the local actors, actresses, and filming that I hadn’t been aware of. I will watch more closely next time I watch it. And there will be a next time I’m sure. Wikipedia gives a big ol’ spoiler without a spoiler alert. But at the very end of the article, it lists the awards this movie has received. So you may want to avoid reading the Wikipedia entry until after you’ve seen the movie but the Wikipedia List of Accolades is probably ok to read prior.

Do You Watch Uncomfortable Films?

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A peek at this film.

Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone

The Book by Daniel Woodrell

Down to the Bone
Down to the Bone

Another award winning movie by Debra Granik. I haven't seen it but it is on my list.


I'd love to hear your comments about this film, others like it, or this lens.

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    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 4 years ago

      Excellent review - you have totally peaked my interest. Don't know if I could watch the slaughter scenes - I might just have to go the book route.