banner image

:: Frozen River

It takes an indie film like ‘Frozen River’ to remind you that not every American film has to be a laugh-out-loud comedy, have stuff blowing up or consist of a cast whose pay packets could save the world economy. ‘Frozen River’ may have been low on budget but it his high in drama and as in an absolute joy to watch.

Ray Eddy (Melisso Leo) is a mother whose husband has abandoned her with her two sons, teenager T.J. (Charlie McDermott) and the younger, Ricky (James Reilly). Ray desperately tries to protect her family from the vicious New York State cold and wants to upgrade with a new (better insulated) portable home, but when her gambling addicted husband takes off with the money she has saved she is in danger of losing sight of this dream. When she can’t get her hours raised at the store she works at she has a chance meeting with a young Mohawk girl, Lila (Misty Upham) who has a money making scheme smuggling across the Canadian border by driving over a frozen river.

It is an absolute shock when you learn that this is ‘Frozen River’s’ writer/director, Courtney Hunt’s debut feature film. Watching the film you would swear that this is the work of a seasoned professional. Visually the film is stunning, and there is not one wasted scene, not even one wasted line of dialogue. Hunt also knows the power of suspense and the film truly keeps the audience guessing at what is going to happen next throughout. This added to the fact that the characters are so well-rounded and portrayed in a way that you will like them (despite the fact they are doing morally questionably things), means you care about each of them so much that you do find yourself concerned when their lives are placed in danger.

The other amazing standout in ‘Frozen River’ is the acting performance of Melissa Leo who truly deserves her Oscar nomination. Her role of Ray Eddy is a performance that you can’t help but go away and talk about to others. She makes the role her own and brings her character to life in such a way that you forget you are watching a film… it seems more like reality TV.

Leo is also well supported by Misty Upham and Charlie McDermott who make the most of difficult roles; roles that use silence and looks to convey feelings and emotions more than dialogue. Of course it is also Hunt’s outstanding eye that manages to capture all this in some amazing ways.

‘Frozen River’ is all that is good about indie films. A great script, great directing, characters that you actually care about, exceptional acting, and that warm feeling you get when you walk out of a cinema knowing that you’ve just spent $15 very wisely indeed.