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— The fourth annual Little Rock Film Festival kicks off at the Riverdale Cinemas at 7 p.m. tonight with a screening of Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, the winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, the movie is a dark, rural noir set in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a 17-year-old who’s planning to escape the squalor of her desperately poor home life by joining the Army, finds her plans derailed when her crystal methamphetamine-cooking father skips out on a court appearance. The main problem with this — other than his leaving Ree alone to take care of her two younger siblings and her incapacitated by shell shock mother — is that he put the family’s house up for bond. If he doesn’t turn up soon, the property will be seized.

Enlisting the help of her murderous Uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) Ree sets out on a journey to try and find her father — a journey imperiled by the omerta observed by her criminal kinfolk and associates of her father. In these hills, it’s dangerous to go around asking questions about a man who doesn’t want to be found.

A devastating, naturalistic tale about the difficulties of staying decent in a corrupt world, Winter’s Bone is a relentlessly bleak tale that in some ways echoes Charles Portis’ classic True Grit, another story about a young girl who takes on adult challenges. Lawrence — impressive in two under-seen films, Guillermo Arriaga’s The Burning Plain (2008) and Lori Petty’s The Poker House (2008) — delivers what might be a breakthrough performance, while Hawkes makes a 180 degree turn from the genial characters he played in the HBO series Deadwood and Eastbound and Down, or the lonely shoe salesman he portrayed in Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005).

Grade: 88

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser

Director: Debra Granik

Rated: R, for some drug material, language and violent content.

Running time: 104 minutes

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