Frozen River: Movie Review
Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham
Director: Courtney Hunt
2009 is shaping up as a good year for smaller independent films.
After the highs of Let
The Right One In I thought I'd have to wait a while for another
good "arthouse" film.
However, I was wrong.
River (which has seen a Best Actress nomination for Melissa Leo) is
the story of Ray Eddy, a New York trailer mum whose struggle to meet the bread
line sees her lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling.
When her husband leaves her, taking the down payment for a new trailer home
to live in, Eddy (a stunning Leo) finds herself with no choice but to trade in
illegal immigrants by teaming up with a Mohawk girl (Misty Upham) who lives on a
reservation on the US Canadian border.
The pair begin making runs across the frozen St Lawrence river in Ray's car -
with each journey bringing them closer to their goals - but in more danger from
Frozen River is an extremely compelling, and ultimately horrifying piece of
film from first timer Courtney Hunt (who also wrote the screenplay).
Leo's Eddy is struggling left right and centre - as Christmas approaches and
after her son inadvertently sets light to their trailer by trying to defrost the
water pipes, she's got little choice but to team up with Lila, the Mohawk girl,
despite her distrust.
Both women bring a quiet desperation to the roles - Lila has a family she
never sees and Eddy has a family she's struggling to keep; Eddy's son resorts to
stealing credit card numbers to try and help her make ends meet.
However, they also exude an inner strength and a determination to do right
via their respective families - which makes each journey a more pain staking
emotional one than they initially realize.
There's tension all round - each journey brings the pair a new peril - and in
one particular case, they dump a package from an illegal family out in the snow;
only to find out later that the package contained an alive baby.
From there, it's a desperate scrabble to find the infant and see if it
Despite the glum nature of the film, it never wallows in mawkishness; each is
doing what they have to to survive - and as time goes on, the two form a bond
and friendship after an initial distrust and resentment.
While Upham does well in her role as Lila, it's Leo who shines - her world
weariness shows on her face and in her resignation; yet she's never a quitter,
she continues to fight on - she may be familiar to some from her turn in the 90s
as a hard bitten detective on the stunning TV cop series Homicide: Life
on The Street, but here she easily demonstrates why the Academy has
rewarded her in 2009.
River is a triumph - it's a compelling and engrossing film which
will lure you in when you least expect it and will leave you emotionally
devastated at its conclusion.