Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Indie Review: Down to the Bone (2004)

                                  A Portrait of Addiction With 'Bone'-Chilling Realism

The true beauty about independent cinema is that it proves that you don't need a 100 million budget to have a good idea. Indie films prove that with a good idea and only some cash, you can tell a powerful story. The film that I am about to review is very low-budget yet is a piece of powerful storytelling. This film is known as Down to the Bone.

                 Down to the Bone is a story set in upstate New York about a working-class woman named Irene (Vera Farmiga) who is a mother of two and also has a cocaine addiction. When she realizes how her life has turned out after she tries to give her dealer money for her kid's birthday present, she then commits herself to rehab. But once she gets out of rehab and forms a relationship with a male nurse who is also a recovering addict named Bob (Hugh Dillon), she realizes that once you get off, it's hard to stop.

                What I Liked About It:
             One thing that I really liked was the way it was shot. The director, Debra Granik, shot it on digital video and I thought that was a very interesting move. I also liked how she showed shots of a pet snake, which I feel represents the drugs and how they are venomous, yet seem harmless at first. There is even a scene where the snake eats a white mouse, which could be representative of Irene and how the drug takes over her. I also thought the film's bleak look was interesting. The film is set in the winter and the color scheme seems to be very gray and that just fits the grim tone of the film.

             Next, I want to get into Vera Farmiga's performance. She is just amazing in this. She gives a performance that is emotionally vulnerable and is rather subtle and restrained instead of over-the-top. This film came out a few years before her big break in The Departed and because she did win a few awards for her performance, that was a foreshadowing that moviegoers would slowly be introduced to a very special talent that she is.

             What I Didn't Like About It:
           I did have one minor gripe with this film, I admit. It does get slow at times, but it wasn't slow to the point where I almost fell asleep. Just on a side note, because this film is rather slow-paced, it definitely isn't for everyone, but it is meant to somewhat be a documentation on the brutal realities of drug addiction.

           Overall, Down to the Bone is a very grim yet realistic portrait of the horrors of drug addiction and features a bravura performance from Vera Farmiga. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone because as I said, it is very slow-paced but takes time with its story. But if you are a fan of indie films like I am, I would highly recommend it. It's now on YouTube, where I watched it.

Rating: 3.5/5