Thursday, August 16, 2012

Down to the Bone

Directed by Debra Granik and written by Granik and Richard Lieske, Down to the Bone is the story of a woman trying to deal with her addiction to drugs as well as living in a small town with children. The film is an exploration into the world of drug addiction from the perspective of a woman as she struggles to stay clean in her working class environment. Starring Vera Farmiga, Hugh Dillon, and Clint Jordon. Down to the Bone is a gripping yet entrancing film from Debra Granik.

Irene (Vera Farmiga) is a supermarket cashier who is currently dealing with an addiction to cocaine. While she has a husband named Steve (Clint Jordon) who also works and two boys in Ben (Jasper Daniels) and Jason (Taylor Foxhill). Irene finds herself struggling to be a good mother to her sons as she decides to go to rehab. After bumping into a nurse named Bob (Hugh Dillon) whom she met at a Halloween party weeks earlier, she befriends Bob as she struggles to deal with the atmosphere at rehab. After a few weeks of treatment, Irene returns home as she deals with her sobriety as she loses her job prompting to start a cleaning business with recovering addict Lucy (Caridad De La Luz).

After attending some meetings with Bob, the two eventually have an affair where Irene makes a discovery about Bob’s sobriety. What would happen would lead to Irene making questionable decisions as her marriage to Steve starts to fall apart. Following a troubling moment that would force Irene to take her sobriety seriously, Irene decides to create a new life of her own. Yet, Bob would also be around as Irene ponders whether or not to help herself in the struggle to stay clean.

The film is essentially an exploration into a woman’s cocaine addiction as she struggles to deal with her sobriety for her children while having an affair with a nurse who is also a recovering addict. Notably as she also delves into the world of rehabs, anonymous meetings, and all sorts of stuff while there’s people around her like her husband who mean well but will do drugs in front of her. In her attempt to stay sober, she would deal with all sorts of things as there’s a possibility that she could slip up and use again. It would take some drastic actions and moments that would force her to realize what she must do to be sober.

The screenplay is presented in a very loose manner as it’s more of a character study than a plot-driven film as a lot of it is told from the perspective of Irene. Still, there is a structure to how Debra Granik and co-writer Richard Lieske plot everything as the first act takes place largely in rehab while the second act is about Irene’s struggle to stay clean outside of rehab. Then comes the third act where it is followed by this event as the stakes is raised higher about what she has to do to stay sober. It would lead to some very emotional and tense moments for Irene as well as a sense of understanding of what she has to do.

Granik’s direction is told with a great sense of realism as it’s shot in a style that is similar to not just cinema verite but also the elements of Dogme 95. Shot mostly with hand-held cameras and in some real locations in upstate New York during the winter. It’s a film that is very intimate in the way it presents a woman’s struggle to be sober as Granik creates shots that doesn’t feature a lot of close-ups nor any wide shots. She allows the frame to capture Irene in her numerous environments as she tries to work or do whatever that is needed to be done to stay clean. Overall, Granik creates a very evocative yet mesmerizing film about a woman’s attempt to maintain her sobriety.

Cinematographer Michael McDonough does excellent work with the film‘s digital video photography to play out the sense of realism in the location for many of the film‘s exteriors while there‘s an array of wonderful lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interior and nighttime exterior scenes. Editor Malcolm Jamieson does superb work with the editing to create some stylish jump-cuts to create a mood in how Irene reacts to her sobriety as well as other stylish cuts to maintain an elliptical feel. Production designer Mark White and set decorator Lisa Scoppa do terrific work with the look of Irene and Steve‘s home as well as the realistic look of the anonymous meetings.

Costume designer Nancy Brous does nice work with the costumes to play up the sense of realism in the characters and their environment. Sound editor Lewis Goldstein does amazing work with the sound to play up the intimacy of the rehab and anonymous meetings as well as the more raucous atmosphere of some of the locations. Music supervisor Linda Kennedy creates an exotic soundtrack that features elements of melodic post-rock mixed in with melancholic piano music to play up the dramatic tone of the film.

The casting by Ellen Parks is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes some memorable performances from Taylor Foxhall and Jasper Daniels as Steve and Irene’s young boys as well as Caridad De La Luz as Irene’s rehab friend Lucy. Clint Jordon is excellent as Irene’s husband Steve who sort of enables Irene but also tries to wonder why she’s become distant. Hugh Dillon gives a superb performance as the nurse Bob who befriends Irene as he struggles to maintain his own sobriety. Finally, there’s Vera Farmiga in a phenomenal performance as Irene where Farmiga displays a sense of restraint as a woman struggling with her addiction and eventual sobriety as it’s a truly captivating and unflinching performance from Farmiga.

Down to the Bone is an incredible film from Debra Granik that features an amazing performance from Vera Farmiga. While it’s not an easy film to watch in terms of its realism, it’s also an engaging one for the way it explores the world of addiction and sobriety. Notably from the perspective of a woman with a family as she wants to do what is right. In the end, Down to the Bone is a fantastic film from Debra Granik.

Debra Granik Films: Winter's Bone - (Stray Dog (2014 film)) - Leave No Trace

© thevoid99 2012


s. said...

Fantastic review for a great film. Though I liked Vera's work in :Nothing but the Truth" the most out of her work, this rigt here was an amazing performance, the film was very interesting to begin with but she was the one who made it unforgettable.

thevoid99 said...

It's a film that I had in my DVR for about a year and I finally decided to see it as I had nothing to do. I definitely enjoyed it. Notably for Vera's performance.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review. God I love this movie. It's definitely real and raw and gritty, but it just gets it right.

I should really check this out again. That ending was just perfect.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-It was a better film than I had anticipated. It makes me hope that Debra Granik has another film coming. I'm interested in what she has to say next.