Frozen River (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/07/2009

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

This is an impressively directed, well written and powerfully emotional drama with a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance by Melissa Leo.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, Frozen River stars Melissa Leo as Ray Eddy, a poverty-stricken mother of two – 15-year-old TJ (Charlie McDermott) and 5-year-old Ricky (James Reilly) – who's desperate to come up with a house payment after her no-good husband ran off with her savings. When she meets Mohawk native Lila Littlewood (Misty Upham), she's taken to someone that she thinks is going to buy her car, but ends up being tricked into driving across a frozen river and back across the Canadian border with two immigrants in her trunk.

With the deadline for the house payment fast approaching, Ray agrees to become a people smuggler with Lila, in the hopes of making some fast cash. The women eventually begin to bond after Lila reveals she has a one-year-old son she's not allowed to see, but both are unprepared for the reality of the job they've undertaken.

The Good
Melissa Leo delivers an achingly raw performance as a woman at the very end of her tether, who wants to be able to give her sons something more than popcorn and Tang (powdered orange juice) for breakfast. Frankly, she was robbed at the Oscars, as this is a powerful, naturalistic, “lived in” performance that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

There's also terrific support from Misty Upham, who provides the perfect counterpoint to Leo's performance; together, they make an unlikely but deeply engaging screen partnership.

The Great
This is the kind of film makes you afraid for its characters because you just know something bad is going to happen, though Hunt isn't afraid to play around with that feeling and scenes don't always play out the way you expect. It's also beautifully shot, with Hunt making strong use of the frozen landscapes, particularly the titular river.

Worth seeing?
Frozen River is a superbly written, genuinely moving drama with an unmissable central performance from Melissa Leo. Highly recommended and one of the best films of the year.

Film Trailer

Frozen River (15)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 11:44

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