Ree Dolly does an awful lot of badass stuff throughout the course of "Winter's Bone," but the scene that stuck with me the most shows our young heroine skin a squirrel without flinching, then chide her brother for balking at pulling out its guts. And then, of course, she fries it up for dinner.

Ree Dolly does an awful lot of badass stuff throughout the course of "Winter's Bone," but the scene that stuck with me the most shows our young heroine skin a squirrel without flinching, then chide her brother for balking at pulling out its guts. And then, of course, she fries it up for dinner.

Those kinds of survival tactics are crucial in the Ozarks, the impoverished region of Missouri where Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a log cabin with her mentally ill mother and two younger siblings.

Her dad, a well-known meth-cooker, isn't around much. After he misses one court date too many, the sheriff comes knocking. Turns out the elder Dolly couldn't post bail, and so he put his house and land up as bond.

And so if Ree can't track down her dad and get him to show up to court, she and the rest of the family will be kicked to the street (or, more likely, to the woods). The 17-year-old sets out on a frenzied search through the backwoods, begging distant family members and friends for any info on her father's whereabouts.

Nobody's very forthcoming, or very kind. Soon a complicated web of secrets and silence emerges, and Ree's coming very close to breaking their unspoken code. There are scenes more harrowing than the squirrel-skinning one to come, but they're best left surprises.

This Sundance favorite is getting some well-deserved Oscar buzz, especially for Lawrence's resilient performance, and I hope it manages to stay on the awards radar.