(2003)4Derek ArmstrongThe indie heir apparent to Robin Wright Penn was introduced to the world -- or at least, a tiny segment of the viewing public -- in Down to the Bone, a gritty window into the small victories and giant relapses of a recovering blue-collar drug addict. Vera Farmiga had been working in supporting roles for years, but never had she so commanded the screen and been so emotionally naked as in Down to the Bone, making this little film the coming-out party for a true talent. Debra Granik's film is not constructed as a sequence of increasingly alarming episodes, a strategy lesser films have used to hammer home the notion that "drugs are bad" with ever greater urgency. Instead, it's as though a true three-month segment from the life of any flawed dead-ender were plucked from the calendar and put on celluloid. Granik doesn't adhere to the clear three-act structure utilized in most narrative films, which will strike some viewers as unfocused. But for those who seek realism, rather than escapism, when they go to the theater, Down to the Bone is indie film heaven. The entire film is overlain with grubbiness, but nothing is exaggerated for effect. These feel like real rehab centers, more likely to inspire feelings of boredom than imprisonment, and real affordable housing, dingy but without making a specific point of it. Similarly, Irene's husband (Clint Jordan) -- who would be an abusive lout in another film -- is not significantly less charming than the recovering addict (Hugh Dillon) she takes as a lover. Down to the Bone might benefit from a slightly firmer hand and a slightly more obvious sense of catharsis, as it closes in a way that could prompt the question, "That's it?" But, sometimes in life, that is it. Sometimes that's all there is.