Down To The Bone

"Excellent"

Down To The Bone Review


Drug or alcohol-based plotlines usually follow the predictable formula of working towards cataclysmic redemption or moralizing a main character's journey towards a bottomless pit in order to teach an audience a thing or two. But writer-director Debra Granik takes a different approach with her debut feature, Down to the Bone, and places us alongside living the minutest of struggles of paying the bills and raising kids while overcoming withdrawal from substance abuse.

Poignant but beautifully far from precious, Down to the Bone captures the very human daily tasks that are difficult to contend with while fighting the personal demons of addiction. The characters are not immediately easy to attach to because of their flaws, but it's their effort to grasp the strings of their lives that will lead them to not give up that form compelling performances rich with sympathy and care. You want them to beat the odds, and even when they falter, there is a quiet understanding that they are learning from their poor choices instead of just falling on an old habit because it's there.

Irene (Vera Farmiga) works in a grocery store, robotically pushing items past the scanner at her register, taking life five minutes at a time, the environs of oppressive fluorescent light encouraging escape as soon as possible. As she rushes to get a fix with a birthday check sent to one of her sons, the dealer turns her down, forcing her to see how far she's really gone. It may be one of those scenes you expect in a film centered on an addict, yet the argument between buyer and seller rings genuine and painful for both parties, and therefore becomes the powerful tool to push Irene into rehabilitation.

As anyone can imagine, rehab is no picnic, but Irene participates as best she can, and gradually allows herself to be assisted. Her well-meaning, if accidentally distanced, husband visits and checks in on her. The scenes of group therapy are powerful not so much in the stories people tell, but through watching those that are observing, listening, and coming to terms with their inner demons. What isn't spoken takes on more emotional weight with everything that is admitted to. A mail nurse at the facility, Bob (Hugh Dillon), also a previous addict, provides an encouragement that turns into something more.

Throughout the trials of reconnecting with family, and dealing with life's pressures without chemical aid, Farmiga gives a gracefully ambient performance of someone floundering for peace and comfort, and to regain self-worth without self-medicating. She's backed by dialogue that evokes plenty of mental provocation without overwhelming with dramatic speeches.

Down to the Bone is a brave, elegantly filmed, treasure of perseverance. Because the film concentrates on telling a story and following dynamic characters without proving a point, it speaks to universal human problems that involve fighting for virtue within yourself, whether you can relate to needing a fix or not.

Don't eat the whole thing.



Down To The Bone

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th March 2005

Distributed by: Laemmle/Zeller Films

Production compaines: Down to the Bone Productions, Susie Q Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Debra Granik

Producer: , Anne Rosellini

Starring: as Irene, as Bob, as Steve, Caridad 'La Bruja' De La Luz as Lucy (as Caridad De La Luz), Jasper Daniels as Ben (as Jasper Moon Daniels), Taylor Foxhall as Jason, Giles Penderghast as Pet Store Clerk, Terry McKenna as Gene, Richard Lieske as Richard, Hector Vasquez as Hector, Joel Saeks as Lars, Lori Berryman as Acupuncture Therapist, Walt Bolde as Walt, Edward Crawford as Kevin, Gia Mitchell as April, Anthony Ricci as John, Liam Underhill as April & John's Son, Kira Daniels as April & John's Daughter, Charles Broughton as Ice Cream Shop Owner, Ernest Longyear as Biker, Robert Henderson as Al, Jackie Lieske as Al's Daughter, Alan Samulski as Jim, Matthew Goldpaugh as Seth (as Matt Goldpaugh), Nancy Fallon as Store Supervisor, Kenneth Thompson as Coupon Man, Corinne Stralka as Customer Short of Cash, Randy Conti as Store Manager, Patrick Dowling as Store Manager, George Koch as George, Jadira as Piercer, Vinny Ritchie as Vinny, as Arresting Officer, Gary Thompson as Officer, Jeremiah Flaherty as Lawyer, Melissa Ortquist as Monitor, Karen Keefe as Clinic Counselor, Tillie Olinsky as Tillie, Shelley Bolding as Marie, as Dog, Phillip X. Levine as Man at AA meeting

Also starring:

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