Christmas is fast approaching in Massena, a small township on the border between New York State and Canada where tattoos, trailer-parks and thrift stores are the order of the day, and Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) is in trouble. When her gambling addict husband disappears with all the money they’ve saved to pay for their new trailer, Ray is left with only days to find over four thousand dollars before herself and her two sons, aged 15 and 5, are in for the most miserable Yuletide in history.
While searching for said errant husband, Ray comes across Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a Native American resident on the nearby Mohawk settlement, which traverses the border between the USA and Canada. The reservation is a hot-bed for people-smuggling, via the frozen river of the title. Desperate times make people do desperate things, particularly single mothers with hungry mouths to feed, and it isn’t long before Lila and Ray form the unlikeliest of allies, ferrying wanna-be Americans across the ice in the boot of Ray’s husband’s left-behind car, clearing 1200 dollars each every time they do so. There’s no such thing as easy money, however, and it isn’t long before things take a turn or 10 for the worse.
Frozen River is fast-moving drama-cum-thriller, which is ultimately believable – i.e. the antithesis of Die Hard – thanks to the quality of the screenplay and the acting. The two female leads are incredible, with Leo’s powerhouse performance in particular justifiably delivering her an Oscar nomination, while Courtney Hunt’s taut script and pitch-perfect direction helped the film to pick up the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. A little film with big ideas about motherhood, sacrifice and desperate measures, Frozen River is a real gem.
Director: Courtney Hunt
Starring: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Extras: Interview with writer/director Courtney Hunt / Interview with Melissa Leo / Stills Gallery / Trailer.
For Fans Of: Quality independent cinema.