Frozen River (15)
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Tue Jul 14 2009
Click here to read an interview with Courtney Hunt, the director of 'Frozen River'
Like some weary, modern day Mildred Pierce, Melissa Leo’s Ray is the poverty-belt princess who will go any distance to ensure the future of her children – even if it means bending the law. Underfed, underpaid and virtually unemployed (her shifts at the Yankee Dollar discount store are not keeping the family afloat), we join her at a low ebb as her no-good husband has scuttled off to Atlantic City with the final payment for her dream mobile home. Teetering on a financial precipice, Ray becomes embroiled in a people-trafficking scam on a nearby Mohawk reservation which connects to the Canadian border across a stretch of icy water, and her improbable accomplice is a dumpy, softly-spoken Mohawk named Lila (Misty Upham).
Occasionally marred by contrivance and a crude internal logic that doesn’t bear close scrutiny, ‘Frozen River’ works best as a knuckle-gnawing, blue-collar genre thriller, with debut director Courtney Hunt doing well to wring every last drop of tension from the pair’s foolhardy endeavour. Yet she also makes sure the film doesn’t stray into the territory of the hand-wringing, ‘sisters-doing-it-for-themselves’ parable. It’s only in the closing scenes that the awkward central relationship attains a hard-won level of empathy and cross-cultural understanding. Leo’s beautifully textured and interior (not to mention Oscar-nominated) performance is also praiseworthy, not only as a muzzled depiction of a maternal crisis of confidence, but also as a portrait of a woman breathlessly dealing with the blows that life in recession-swamped America ceaselessly doles out to her.
Author: David Jenkins