Class Act/Drama

Down To The Bone

 Click here to buy now: Down to the Bone (Sub)

Distributed By: Down To The Bone Productions/Susie Q Productions

Reviewed by Justine Manzano

     Once again, I revisit my film class to bring you reviews of the movies we watched and this time I have my professor to thank for discovering a rare gem.  Previously, the movies we had watched in our film class were well known, even classics.  Down To The Bone, directed by Debra Granik, was not well known.  To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a soul who touched this project who is a household name.  And that was great to me—I got to roam a (mostly) undiscovered country and perhaps, use this site to make the people involved a little more well known to a few more people.  After all, that’s what this site is all about.

     Down To The Bone follows the life of Irene (Vera Farmiga, Touching Evil, UC: Undercover).  She is your normal, every day wife and mother who lives in the suburbs.  She works at a Walmart-like store and get her kids ready for Halloween.  She has a perpetually bored look on her face.  And when she goes into the bathroom…she sniffs cocaine!  It’s a habit she has had for a long time, but it has finally caught up with her.  She has no more money to support her habit and she knows she has hit rock bottom when she tries to trade in her son’s gift for coke.  She checks herself into rehab.

     In rehab, she makes many friends, one of which is Bob (Hugh Dillon , sadly, most well known for his part in Degrassi…), who is an aid in the center as well as a recovering user.  When she returns home, she doesn’t take long to remember why she uses drugs.  She loses her job because she’s slower than she used to be and it becomes clear that her husband offers her her greatest temptation by allowing people to use in her house.  Distressed, she turns to Bob, who is now a member of her Narcotics Anonymous meeting, for romantic and emotional comfort—a relationship that has the potential to be very bad for both of them.

     Debra Granik is an excellent and skilled director and I’m shocked that I haven’t heard more about her.  The message of the movie is a powerful and grim reality.  Drugs can turn your life upside down and, sometimes, no matter how much you promise to fix things, you can never go back.  The acting and visuals hammers this home.  There are no flashy graphics or lighting.  The setting makes you feel just as cramped, solitary and bored as Irene does in her every day life.  Just like true life, people seem to come and go from Irene’s life, but all the while, we follow Irene, the only person who feels entirely real to us, because she is the only person who is entirely real to herself.  The entire atmosphere feels just as uncomfortable as Irene does in her own life, and this surreal feeling is furthered by the lack of a soundtrack.  Nothing turns your attention away from the message, and the actors do well to portray this exact disconnected feeling.

     Down To The Bone is gritty and, at moments, difficult to watch.  But to so many, a life like this is a reality.  The topic of drug use has been done so many times, but Granik does it right, not in some stylized, pretty people kind of way, but in a cinema verite style that gets right down to the basics of what true drug addiction is.  It can happen to anybody and when it does, it’s destructive.  And Granik does an excellent job of reminding us.  

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