Down to the Bone

Director: Debra Granik
Screenwriters: Debra Granik, Richard Lieske


A stark wintry day. A grocery store parking lot. An American flag cake careening down the belt at the checkout stand. So begins Down to the Bone, a revelatory drama that subtly suffuses visual metaphors into the story of a weary working-class mother trapped in drug addiction. Inspired by her prizewinning short film Snake Feed (Sundance '98), Debra Granik's beautifully wrought feature debut intensely and authentically explores the wrenching road of recovery without ever resorting to histrionics.

In an upstate New York town, Irene struggles to raise two small sons, keep her stale marriage together, and manage a secret cocaine habit. Desperate to alter her life, she tries to get clean. But as chilly autumn turns to icy winter, Irene flirts with danger as she falls into an incendiary affair.

Never imposing moral standards, Down to the Bone matter-of-factly embraces flawed characters who occupy a gray zone between right and wrong. The film's great achievements are its profound humanization of Irene and the extraordinary chemistry in each of her relationships. Vera Farmiga's remarkably restrained and sultry performance, along with truthful turns by costars Hugh Dillon and Clint Jordan, is in no small part responsible. Michael McDonough's luminous digital photography adds a layer of poetic insight to this raw slice of realism.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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