- Crime, Drama, Independent , produced in 2008 USA
- Actors: Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott
- Directed by: Courtney Hunt
- Rating: 7.40 out of 10 (2510 votes)
Courtney Hunt's feature directorial debut FROZEN RIVER is a powerfully unflinching tale of two women, who, driven by economic hardship, form an unlikely partnership smuggling illegal immigrants across the Canadian border. Melissa Leo turns in a gritty performance as Ray, a struggling dollar-store cashier and mother living in a trailer home in upstate New York who is desperate to make ends meet. When Ray's gambling-addicted husband runs off with the family's payment on a new doublewide trailer, her life quickly spirals into a financial tailspin. During a frenzied search for her deadbeat spouse, she apprehends Lila (Misty Upham), a Mohawk Indian from an area reservation, attempting to steal her car. In the process of taking back her vehicle, she learns of Lila's smuggling operation through an unpatrolled corridor within Mohawk territory--the frozen St. Lawrence River that forms part of the border between the U.S. and Canada. Out of necessity, they form an uneasy alliance: Ray, working to meet the payment's deadline, and Lila, who scrambles to earn money to redeem herself to her estranged in-laws and infant child.
Within a stark, mostly minimalist screenplay, Hunt seamlessly works in contemporary anxieties: economic recession, immigration, and trafficking, but never puts too fine a point on social relevance to the detriment of a compelling storyline. As the plot heats up, the stakes Ray and Lila encounter get higher and the danger, more real. FROZEN RIVER is more than a somber meditation on lives in peril, it's a complex portrait of women from different walks of life struggling to find their ethical bearings in a harsh, unforgiving, and corrupt world.
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