Movie Review frozen river

I have been writing movie reviews for years, and I don’t often or easily give out glowing reviews. I feel that a solid review should be a somewhat rare occurrence–something to get excited about. While friends often tell me I’m too harsh, I’m simply waiting for something really good to come around; after all, you have to experience some bad to appreciate the good. So, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I walked out of Hollywood Hits Theater completely blown away by indie flick “Frozen River.” Written and directed by newbie Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River” takes place between the border of New York State and Quebec, Canada. With only a week before Christmas, Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo), mother of two, discovers that her deadbeat husband has run away and stolen the money for the family’s new home, a doublewide trailer for which they’ve been saving. Devastated and broke, Ray has to somehow provide for her children. While looking for her husband on a local Mohawk reservation, Ray meets Lila (Misty Upham), a single mom whose child has been taken by her mother-in-law. Both women are desperate and, despite their differences in race, religion and opinion, the two reluctantly team up to earn the cash they need, and fast. In a tiny, run down car, Lila and Ray drive from the Mohawk reservation across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River and into Quebec to smuggle Chinese and Pakistani people into America. As Ray gets closer and closer to earning enough money to pay off the costs of her doublewide, New York State Troopers quickly begin to hone in on their operations. With only one more run to go before she earns enough, Ray pushes her limits to see just how far she’ll go to live the American dream. At its core, “Frozen River” is a story of desperation; everything from the landscapes to the people are bleak and barren. Hunt takes her time setting the scene, quietly painting a picture of how hard these women have to work to survive. It’s never glitzed up or overly dramatized. Instead, there’s something very true and realistic about the entire film. It’s sometimes hard to imagine a life that’s devoid of even the simplest pleasures, especially when living at a place like Phillips Academy. “Frozen River” brings to light the hardship and daily struggle of these people, and it’s a humbling experience. Hunt, in an uncomplicated and almost effortless way, presents a difficult story that captures the human experience beautifully. Sure, Hunt might not be breaking ground in terms of filmmaking and technique. But, she manages to fully flesh out her characters while telling a story that tackles issues like prejudice, religion, sacrifice, desperation and, ultimately, acceptance. “Frozen River” is packed with heavy material, but Hunt directly confronts every issue with the skill of a director far more experienced than herself. But, it would be unfair to give all the credit to Hunt. After all, the most heartbreaking and memorable moments come from Leo. After years of playing fairly trivial roles, Leo finally plays the part for which she was born. If you see “Frozen River” for only one reason, see it for Leo’s performance. She stands far above the already outstanding cast and makes this story all the more compelling to watch. The viewer truly gets a look into the mind of Ray, however flawed, and understands her. “Frozen River” is an amazing movie. And, for such an inexperienced director, it’s a huge accomplishment. Everything, right down to the scoring and the lighting, is practically perfect. While it might not be revolutionary to the filmmaking world, its appeal lies in its simplicity. “Frozen River” certainly isn’t the feel-good movie of the year, but it’s not one to be missed. Grade: 6-