The film is set in the Ozark Mountains and illustrates life in a rural community where the illegal drug trade is flourishing.
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We follow Ree Dolly (Lawrence), a teenager who practically supports herself and her younger brother and sister. Her mother is mentally ill and her father Jessup is missing, wanted by the law.
Prospects are bleak, and when the Sheriff (Dillahunt) arrives to tell her that, if Jessup is not found within a week, dead or alive, they will lose their house, Ree decides to take matters into her own hands.
Her first visit is paid to Jessup's brother, Teardrop (Hawkes), but he abruptly refuses to help her. Eventually she tries to meet with the community leader, Thump Milton, but is stopped by his helpers. Not wanting to give up, Ree keeps asking questions around town until people feel she is becoming a threat. Milton's henchmen take her to their boss and beat her as she pleads with him. Luckily Teardrop shows up and saves her, and confesses that he knows Jessup has been killed, but not by whom or where.
A few days pass. During the night, three women, Milton's followers, meet with Ree and agree to take her to her father's resting place. They take a boat to a secluded part of a lake, where Jessup's body lies. Needing proof of death in order to keep her family's house, Ree is forced to cut off the dead man's hands in a gruesomely realistic scene. They are delivered to the police the next day, and Ree is able to save her house.
Life will not be any easier for Ree, her family, or the community she is a part of, but as Teardrop visits her and his young nephews, playing the banjo for them, there is a feeling that with all the bad, some good must come as well.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the setting of the film and the themes of community and family, which can be at the same time a struggle and a blessing.
Best scene in story:
The confrontation between the Sheriff and Teardrop on the side of the road. Teardrop is in his car with Ree, having been pulled over. As the Sheriff approaches the car, yelling at Teardrop to get out, we see both men are armed and there is immense tension building up during their exchange of words.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked the character very much, Ree is a hardened survivor who chooses to act for her family. Her scenes with her brother and sister are great in showing the loving side of family even in a harsh environment.