Scene Deconstruction – Winter’s Bone – Is this gonna be our time?

This is what I think is a near-perfect scene from what I think is a pretty good movie.

To describe what is happening from a pure action standpoint, this scene is really quite uneventful. A woman and a man are driving, they get pulled over, the policeman talks to the man, they show off their guns, they part ways. But through the way the scene is constructed, the building of tension is crazy. I just love the concept of a cop pulling over a car, but being the one who’s scared and not in control at all. The main things that I’m going to focus on in deconstructing the scene are camera and lighting.

(characters: passenger – Ree, driver – Teardrop, policeman – Baskin)


– 12 angles used, with 37 cuts between them

– every shot outside of car is handheld – gives a much more uneasy feeling than a set camera would

– two shot of Ree and Teardrop driving – we see police lights gradually appear in background

– wide shot of Baskin getting out of police car and walking towards Teardrop’s truck – shows clear distinction between two parties through difference in cars

– Baskin’s walk to the truck is tracked – emphasises how slowly and carefully he is walking

– side on angle, mid shot of Teardrop and Ree emphasise difference between two characters – Ree is worriedly looking at Baskin, Teardop is calmly sitting perfectly still

– mid shot of Baskin, asking Teardrop to get out of the truck – one of the best shots of the scene, because of where Baskin has chosen to stop and talk – a good few metres back from the door – he clearly doesn’t have all of the power in this situation, despite being the sheriff

– the way in which the dialogue between Teardrop and Baskin is shot – so far from intimate or respectful – metres away from each other facing different directions – eyelines do match though – they are making eye contact through the side view mirror

– as tension in dialogue grows, Baskin is shot in mid close up, rather than a mid shot

– close up of Teardrop’s reflection looking at Baskin – directly eyeing the camera – terrifying effect – John Hawkes is amazing

– after a mid close up of the silent character, Ree, a cut to Baskin with matching eyelines subtly reveals that he has seen her – leading him to be reluctant to cause any kind of shootout

– close ups of Baskin’s and Teardrop’s guns suggest where things could lead

– then the money shot, the same close up of Teardrop’s reflection, this time with his rifle across his chest – he eyes the camera and asks ‘is this gonna be our time?’ – camera holds on his motionless face for max effect

– Baskin exchanges glances with both characters before ultimately standing down

– mid shot of Baskin shows the truck drive out of frame, as he is left alone with a very scared expression

– lots of shots with no talking or action – slowly build tension


– set at nighttime

– within the story world, the light is coming from the police car headlights, siren lights(??) and Baskin’s torch

– lighting is very low-key, with lots of shadows apparent

– the flashing red and blue lights are always in the background and do most of the lighting for Ree – across the left side of her face, right is unlit

– Baskin’s torch mostly lights Teardrop – very soft light, creates lots of soft shadows on his face

– torchlight is also indicative of where Baskin is looking – sometimes Teardrop, sometimes Teardrop’s reflection, sometimes Ree, sometimes the back of the truck

– Despite not being directly hit by any in-world lights, Baskin’s face is evenly lit, though still dark due to time of day

– close up of Teardrop’s reflection has a hard shadow covering half of his face when torch is shined on mirror

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 1.37.39 pm

Is this gonna be our time?


  1. Bob

    Would you take a look at the first scene from Winter’s Bones when we first meet Teardrop? What is the symbolism behind Russian Roulette in this scene? First the gun is laying on the lazy suzanne facing the wall, Teardrop loads one bullet into the already almost filled clip, ejects the clip and basically points the gun just above his head. He then ejects the clip, puts it back down on the lazy suzanne and spins it. When it stops it is pointing at Ree. Has he already played the game and survived hoping she will do the same?

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