Takes place in the days before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec. Here, the lure of fast money from smuggling ...
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Takes place in the days before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec. Here, the lure of fast money from smuggling presents a daily challenge to single moms who would otherwise be earning minimum wage. Two women - one white, one Mohawk, both single mothers faced with desperate circumstances - are drawn into the world of border smuggling across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River. Ray and Lila - and a New York State Trooper as opponent in an evolving cat-and-mouse game. Written by
'Frozen River' gives us a glimpse of the life of poor working class Americans, something that is rarely seen in films nowadays. While it is known that the poor are homeless or they become criminals such as being part of a gang, robbery etc. Very little is seen about the working class who are almost penniless but just manage to get by with their daily struggle and a thankless job.
'Frozen River' tells the story of two such single mothers. One is a Mohawk widow who earns her bucks by smuggling people into the states through the frozen river. She hopes to provide enough to raise her son who is in the custody of her mother-in-law. The other is a white mother of two whose husband just took off with all the money she saved for a house and is left in despair as she has to pay off debts. An unexpected encounter with her Mohawk counterpart allows her a possibility.
First timer Courtney Hunt does a fabulous job as writer and director. She's clearly put a lot of heart into making the film. She has chosen a very minimal approach (e.g. minimal dialogues, raw scenery, restrained performances from actors etc) but the saying 'less is more' really can easily be applied this case. The dialogues are of a few words but they speak volumes. The snowy landscape is beautiful but at the same time scary (who would dare drive over a frozen river?).
Melissa Leo finally gets a role that explores her acting capability to the fullest. She's always been a talent that was waiting to be exposed and 'Frozen River' does just that. The actress isn't afraid to look her worst in front of the camera all for the benefit of the role and quietly breathes fire into her character. Misty Upham is another underused actress who shines as Lila. She manages to hold her own with Leo. Her lack of experience as an actress in contrast to Leo's filmography may be what has worked for her as a single mother who is rather young and new to motherhood while Ray is someone with two kids (one of whom is a 15 year old).
In 'Frozen River' the broken American dream is broken but one has to survive. We see the immigrants moving in harsh conditions to be a part of this dream and we see Lila and Ray pick up the broken pieces of that dream and find a way to survive only to provide their kids a better future. 'Frozen River' is a gem.
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