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Review - Film - The chill factor - Winter's bone

Director: Debra Granik

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Shelley Waggener, Garret Dillahunt

Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray

Cert: 15

Rating: 45

Winter's Bone is the story of 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives a hand-to-mouth existence in the southern United States. Her father, Jessup Dolly, has disappeared, leaving Ree to care for her depressed mother and her younger brother and sister.

The local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) arrives with the shocking news that Ree's father is due in court and has put the family house up as bail. If their father doesn't show up, they will lose the house so Ree begins a desperate search to find out what has happened to her father. The answer is the same everywhere - keep your nose out of other people's business. She refuses to listen to the warnings and continues to search for her missing father, even after his own brother, Teardrop (John Hawkes), assures her that he is dead.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable film, a little slow at the beginning, but gritty and realistic with nail-biting suspense. The director and writer, Debra Granik, chose the perfect actors for the lead roles. Jennifer Lawrence gives a powerful performance as Ree. John Hawkes is excellent and believable as Teardrop. The American folk music accompanying the film fits exactly with the setting and characters. Every scene, from those in Ree's home to her search for her father, is well directed and acted.

The one thing I found annoying was the slightly random cuts between scenes, which jumped from day to night and from place to place far too quickly without explanation. The large number of characters introduced in the beginning is also quite confusing. It is hard to get to grips with who is who when the film has only just started.

Winter's Bone is an excellent film. Anyone who is a fan of realistic, edge-of-your-seat films will definitely enjoy it.

Ryan Turner, 15, Ilford County High School, Essex

Rating: 55

Winter's Bone is a grim portrayal of life for a teenage girl in the Ozark Mountains in the US. Her father has disappeared and her mother is catatonic with depression, leaving her alone to care for her brother and sister. At first, her neighbours seem to want to help her, but when she is forced to search for her father she meets nothing but obstruction and violence.

The setting is bleak and there seems to be no future for the children in the area. Ree, the central character, has no possible escape route other than to join the army, but the reality of leaving her brother and sister prevents her from doing this. The absence of opportunity for the people in the area is emphasised by a scene at the high school where the only subjects on offer appear to be childcare and parade practice.

Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Ree. She gives a strong performance that keeps you rooting for her the whole way through. Her character is extraordinarily brave as she embarks on her quest for her father and, in the end, her bravery is rewarded. It is refreshing to watch a film where the central character is female, fearless and determined - and concerned with issues beyond finding a boyfriend.

I would thoroughly recommend this movie to all: it's gripping, well directed and superbly acted.

Judy Parke, Filmclub leader, Ilford County High School, Essex

Filmclub, an educational charity supported by Lovefilm, sets up after school clubs, where children meet to watch, discuss and review thought-provoking films. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to classic and world cinema. Free to state schools. Find out more at www.filmclub.orgregister

FILMCLUB PUPIL REVIEWS

THE RUNAWAYS

Director: Floria Sigismondi

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

Cert: 15

Out now on DVD

Rating: 15

This is about the 1970s female rock group The Runaways, focusing on the duo of guitaristvocalist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and lead vocalist Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) as they climb the difficult road to "making it big" under the eye of their bizarre manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon).

It's hard to express how little I care for this film. In this review, I will be essentially expressing a sigh followed by a long and imposing yawn. That's right, The Runaways is a vile and depressing glorification of drug abuse and underage sex. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for exploring taboo subjects; however, what's presented here is less of exploration and more of an advertisement.

The one saving grace is the fantastic soundtrack, featuring artists such as David Bowie, The Sex Pistols and The Stooges, which is a treat. But the use of The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog during a drug-induced montage is so overdone it could be used as an example of a banal cinematic cliche.

Andrew Soulsby, 16, St Cuthbert's Catholic High School, Newcastle

BILLY LIAR

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie

Cert: PG

Out now on DVD

Rating: 55

The title Billy Liar is well suited to this film because Billy Fisher really is a bad liar. There are very funny parts and not so funny parts like when Billy's grandma dies in hospital.

The film was made in the 1960s (without colour), the special effects weren't the best but they are still very good. Billy's parents are not the best role models in his life, but the night before he goes to London (or is planning to), they tell him he can't go because they need him at home. Billy hasn't told anyone that he is engaged to three women, but it doesn't matter as none of them get married in the film.

This is the first black-and-white film I've seen and it's very good. Billy often goes off into a fantasy world where he has everything his way and he is in charge as the prime minister of the country. I think that some people may find it hard to understand because sometimes you don't know when he is in a dream. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it for eight to 13-year-olds as there are violent scenes in Billy's dreams - but only a few.

Catherine Beeby, 11, Harlow Green Community Primary School, Gateshead.

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