Frozen River

Melissa Leo is terrifically truculent as Ray, a single mother of two boys who reluctantly teams up with an equally hard-up Native American, Lila (Misty Upham), to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border from Canada. Like many first features that began life as shorts and were shot over two weeks with a Varicam, Frozen River can make for ragged viewing. First-time director Courtney Hunt has astute visual command of the dreary landscape that frames these women’s struggle to survive, but the slathered-on pathos and abundant use of thin ice as a metaphor made me wince. Still, what sticks in the memory is the unnerving lack of basic safety that comes with living on the financial edge for these women, which ultimately forces them to take untenable risks.

Categories: Movies