Saturday, 31 January 2009

Frozen River: Movie Review

Frozen River: Movie Review

Rating 8/10
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.
Frozen 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 being caught.
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 survives.
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.

Frozen 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.

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