Review: Down to the Bone (2004)


Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone


Towards the end of 2005, Vera Farmiga’s performance as Irene, a cocaine addicted mother of two, in Down to the Bone caused quite a stir. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded her the Best Actress prize over favorite Reese Witherspoon. Suddenly a new name was added to the short list of possible 2006 Oscar nominees.

Farmiga’s name was forgotten almost as quickly as it had been considered. Witherspoon, after all, went on to win the Academy Award, and Farmiga’s name was left off of the ballot entirely.

I won’t compare the two performances but I hate to break it to all you Reese fans out there, Vera Farmiga was better. Much better.

Simply put, Farmiga’s performance is gritty and painstakingly real.

Set in upstate New York, Irene, a grocery store clerk, is attempting to balance work and family, all while hiding a cocaine addiction. Irene has an ephihany when she tries to spend her son’s birthday money on drugs and she decides to check herself into rehab. In rehab, she meets Bob (Hugh Dillon) a former heroin addict.

Bob and Irene’s mutual affection for each other quickly develops into a romance. But, their relationship reaches a crossroads when one relapses into old habits. Irene must make a choice between her past and her future.

Down to the Bone, Debra Granik’s directorial debut, is a bleak film. Yet there is a chilling and almost poetic beauty about it, as Granik presents an unbiased look at life and addiction. And Vera Farmiga’s performance makes this a picture not to be missed.

Updated October 11, 2010