Monday, November 1, 2010

Movie Review: "Frozen River"

After choosing several indie films that I liked more than Mike did, I watched another one while on a business trip last week. I can't remember how I found out about "Frozen River," but it might have been while researching another film (Amazon's recommendation, or something like that). In the end, I believe Mike would have liked this movie (although he might have fallen asleep during it...who knows?).

"Frozen River" is about a hard-luck mom, Ray, in upstate New York, who is trying to support her two sons on a part-time job at a dollar store.  She and her kids have their hearts set on a "double wide," a new, much bigger mobile home, but her gambler husband has run away with the house payment. The movie starts out with Ray, smoking a cigarette, crying in the morning after she discovers her husband has left, yet again, leaving them completely without recourse.

Desperate measures lead to desperate choices. Ray ends up forming a tenuous alliance with Lila, a young Mohawk woman. Lila's also a single mom, although her baby was taken away from her at birth. To raise quick money, Ray and Lila begin smuggling people across the frozen river that connects the U.S. Mohawk reservation with an indian reserve in Canada. The women try not to allow themselves to become emotionally affected by their travelers' journeys, but eventually they become drawn in. When they make one last desperate attempt (so Ray can make enough money for her house payment), everything goes wrong.

Melissa Leo, as Ray, and Misty Upham (Lila) deliver raw, gritty performances. This movie portrays the world of the working class, as well as the Mohawk Tribe, sensitively and honestly. Both women love their sons passionately and want to make better lives for them, in one way or another. Even though they are breaking the law, one can understand why they made the choices they did, as difficult it is to observe. Lila and Ray must balance difficult decisions and make sacrifices for their children, as well as for one of the families who travels in the trunk of their car.

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