Everyone's got a secret
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), 17, looks after her mentally ill mother; her brother, Sonny (12); and her sister, Ashlee (6). She daily makes sure they are fed, dressed, and off to school, and teaches them basic survival skills such as hunting and cooking. Her father, Jessup, a meth-cooker, hasn't been home for a long time and his whereabouts are unknown.The local sheriff shows up and tells Ree that Jessup is due to be in court in a week, cannot be found, and has put their house and property up as collateral for his bail. If he doesn't show up for his trial, they will lose it all. Determined to find him, dead or alive, Ree doggedly questions her father's relatives and associates, but everywhere she goes the message is the same: stay out of it or get hurt. Even her father's brother, Teardrop (John Hawkes), tells her that Jessup has probably been silenced for talking with the authorities.Undaunted, Ree pushes on and after a week, when her father does not show for his trial, Ree once again tries to speak to the region's patriarch, Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall). Because she had been warned not to return, Ree is brutally beaten by three women of the clan to teach her a lesson. When Thump and the rest of the clan show up, Ree remains defiant but pleads her case for keeping their house, saying that she is responsible for her sick mother and 2 young siblings. If her father is not found, dead or alive, the bond will be forfeited, and her family will be forced "out into the woods." Teardrop shows up to rescue her. He confronts Thump and the rest of the Milton clan, and assures them that he means them no harm and will take responsibility for his niece and any further actions by her. Thump is satisfied that Teardrop will not cause any problems and that he understands that whatever happened between the Milton clan and Jessup was business. Thump lets Teardrop take Ree and be on their way.On the way home, Teardrop tells Ree that if she ever finds out who killed her father, not to tell him because then he would have to do something about it and end up "toes up" as well. Ree sees no further options that would enable her to either keep the house or keep the family together, so she attempts to join the military after seeing recruiting posters offering $40,000 for 5 years of service. But when the recruiter tells her she will not be able to care for her family while in basic training or deployed to a foreign country, she changes her mind.One night, the same three Milton women who beat Ree come to Ree's house and offer to take her to see "her father's bones." They want to help her keep the house without revealing too much and without any more rumours being told about them. The women blindfold Ree so that she will not know where she is going. They drive her to a pond, get into a rowboat, and row to the shallow place where her father's body lies. They insist Ree reach into the water, grasp her father's hand, and pull it taut so that, using a chain saw, they can cut it off the corpse; for then Ree will finally be able to prove to the authorities that her father is dead. Ree agonizes, but complies; and then must help cut off her father's other hand, too.After delivering the severed hands to the sheriff--whom Teardrop has accused of being complicit in Jessup's death--Ree and her family are able to keep their home. They also also receive an unexpected boon: a large sum of cash that one of Jessup's anonymous associates had to add as part of the bond, but will not claim.The movie ends with Teardrop, after trying to play Jessup's banjo, telling Ree he realizes who killed his brother. Ree wants to give the banjo to Teardrop, but Teardrop says that she should keep it for him, and abruptly leaves. Ree's brother Sonny asks Ree if she plans on leaving them, to which she responds she would never leave them. Then her little sister picks up the banjo and starts to play it.
Score: 68 %