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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 September 2010
This is a great film. I bought it on the basis of the reviews as many reviewers on Amazon provide a useful guide as to quality in my view. Some are mad mind so use your loaf. Anyway, brilliant acting, great locations, gritty and in some respects a touch depressing. Worth a watch.
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on 23 October 2015
Interesting film, keep my attention, did not fall asleep before it ended.
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on 21 March 2017
Arrived promptly but freezes now and again 😭
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on 17 May 2017
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 August 2015
Courtney Hunt’s directorial debut is an absorbing, intelligent and understated salutary story of two desperate women making questionable decisions in order to survive. Set in the USA / Canada border area of the North Country of Upstate New York Melissa Leo’s white working class Ray and Misty Upham’s Native American Lila unexpectedly form an uneasy alliance of convenience in order to obtain much needed cash. Despite the danger involved (not least driving a vehicle over the frozen St Lawrence River) both hope to solve their financial predicaments by helping to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border between two Mohawk Reservations. The screenplay is bleak and uncompromising reflecting an uncomfortable contemporary reality, but the masterful writing and acting draws out an admirable empathy and compassion as the narrative approaches its inevitable conclusion. Also contributing to the high overall quality of the film is the accomplished cinematography, effectively conveying a palpable poverty as the grim interior shots contrast with the harsh winter beauty of the natural environment. This is definitely no action adventure, but the film oozes with tension, and the incident involving a suspect package carried by a Pakistani couple is truly disturbing. In my opinion the ending has a satisfactory hopeful tone, reflecting an underlying humanity which permeates every minute of this superior movie.
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on 28 August 2015
A tightly-constructed, economically paced, and atmospherically-shot independent film, "Frozen River" reveals the full extent of the talent of an actress I had previously seen in small parts: Melissa Leo. She plays Ray Eddy, a woman living in a small mobile-home in upstate New York, near the Canadian border and near an Indian Reservation that spans the border and that therefore has become a place from which people can be smuggled into the United States. Ray gets into smuggling because she's desperate -- the money she had been saving to make a downpayment on a double-wide has been taken by her husband, a gambling addict, and one of the first shots in the movie shows us a close-up of Ray, weeping in her car outside her home, with the empty glove-compartment testifying to her husband's theft of the money. It's just before Christmas, and she has to go in and tell her five-year-old son that they won't be moving to a new home after all. She finds her husband's car, which has been appropriated by a Native American woman, Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), who has troubles of her own -- she has been widowed as a result of her husband's having taken her place on a smuggling run late in her pregnancy, and her child has been taken by her mother-in-law. She wants the child back, and she's trying to use smuggling to raise the money to be able to take and keep him. It's Lila who tells Ray that she saw her husband abandon the car -- leaving the keys -- and get on a bus. Ray assumes he headed for Atlantic City.

The story tells how the women start to work together as smugglers to make what they need. There's nothing glamorous about the operation: it involves driving over the frozen St. Lawrence River, and the Highway Patrol is on the watch when their car gets off the reservation (where the HP has no jurisdiction). Meanwhile, Ray is dealing with her elder son, T. J., who is 15 and is willing to drop out of school and get a job to help out. His mother resists this plan, and the dynamic between the deserted woman and the abandoned boy is beautifully and plausibly played by Leo and Charlie McDermott. There comes a point -- avoiding details to avoid spoilers -- where one last run (so both women hope) has to be made to garner the money they need, and it doesn't go well. Again, the circumstances are plausibly handled, and the suspense that is built up is achieved without resort to melodrama or special effects. Near the end, Ray has to make a choice -- or, rather, she makes a choice that she doesn't have to make, and the way that she makes it is beautifully consonant with the way that we have seen the relationship between the women developing. The ending is touching, without being implausibly optimistic.

Misty Upham, who died tragically about six years after the film was made, is memorable as Lila. The focus of sympathy and emotional interest has to be evenly balanced if the film is going to work. These are two strong women -- not a plucky white woman taking care of a hapless Native American. There is in fact something like a power-struggle early in their dealings with one another, but then the relationship settles. Each comes to understand the family dynamic of the other, so this is a movie about "family values," if you can detach from that term all the sentimental accretions it has undergone in the last 30 years. Doing the wrong thing to do the right thing is an old story in movies, but it's very effectively employed here.
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A cool chill pervades this film, `Frozen River'. The town of Mesena in upstate New York, on the other side of the St Lawrence River that leads to Canada, has that grey ,wintery feel that you see on the faces of the people trying to keep their families alive. The only entertainment seems to be the Bingo House on the Mohawk Indian Reservation. This is a depressed, tough town, there is no feeling of joy or well being. I was tense throughout this film, and it is tough to shake the feel.

Melissa Leo, plays `Ray' a tough minded woman who accepts her fate and asks for no sympathy. She is a suddenly single mother. Her husband took the funds they had saved for a double wide trailer, gambled it away and left town. He left her with two sons, aged 15 and 5, a part time job at Lucky Dollar and a broken down trailer on the edge of town. Ray spends her time fighting to put food on the table and to keep the debtors out of her hair. Dinner before payday is popcorn and Tang.

But Ray has grit, she meets a young Mohawk woman, Lilly, who talks and then shows her a smuggling deal, driving across the frozen St Lawrence with illegal aliens in the trunk. The land is Indian, and the white man cannot arrest anyone on this land. There is the state police on the highway into town, but they don't stop white women. The overt racism against Indians is quite apparent and real. The money is good, $1200 a run. Too good to pass up and soon Ray and Lilly are on several runs. Money to pay for the large flat screen television, TV dinners,maybe the double wide and presents for Christmas. TJ, Ray's son, wants to leave school and help support them, but Ray is adamant that her children obtain an education. And, besides his job is to care for his brother, Ricky. There is love and respect in this family. Ray's eyes shine with love for her sons, they are,, after all her entire life.

The drive on the frozen St Lawrence is an analogy for the entire film, frightening, tense , wondering if the ice will crack. Two women dealing with brutes who are dangerous and dark. This film elicits the iey cold nights and the fear that resonates with everyone involved. A relationship of sorts develops between Lily and Ray. Both tough women who would do whatever it takes for their children.

Melissa Leo is unknown to most. I remember her clearly from the television series `Homicide: Life On The Streets'. She is a fabulous actress, she becomes the character she portrays. This is her film and she makes it come alive. It is not a wonderful life, but it is a wonderful film.

Recommended. prisrob 06-09-13
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VINE VOICEon 12 April 2010
Drama derived from characters in desperate situations are not exactly unusual but very rarely are they done as well as Frozen River. Courtney Hunt who writes and directs ( and also earned an academy nod for the Screenplay ) gave the film the tagline "Desperation knows no borders." which plays obviously on the characters state of affairs but also neatly ties in with a major part of the plot.
Frozen River is set in a small town on the New York/Canadian border. Within this town is a Mohawk Indian reservation that straddles the St. Lawrence River and extends into Canada. You can enter the reservation in America, drive through it, cross the titular frozen river, drive through the other half of the reservation, and exit in Canada -- and thus circumvent the normal border-crossing regulations. Local cops keep a vigilant eye just outside the reservation's boundaries, but as long as you don't give them any reason to be suspicious they have no reason to stop you and check your trunk/boot to see if you've smuggled something across the border.
That being pertinent because Ray ( Melissa Leo ) a struggling mother of two kids with a part time job in a thrift shop has been left in the lurch by her gambling addicted husband who has run off with the money they had saved in order to buy a new more luxurious condo , replacing the crappy one they currently exist in. Then she meets Lila (Misty Upham), a young Mohawk woman who lives in an even smaller trailer on the reservation . Lila has procured the car left by Rays runaway husband but she knows how to earn money transporting immigrants across the border from Canada to the United States, hiding them in a car's trunk and taking advantage of the reservation's abnormal geography. Ray is a good foil , frantic for money also but being a white woman, she's less likely to be stopped by the local police. It's an easy payday , all you got to do is drive across the frozen river and the pay beats thrift shop wages hands down . Until of course it all goes awry and the arrangement becomes problematic to say the least .
Frozen River is a brilliantly acted (Melissa Leo is sensational and deservedly earned an Oscar nomination too ) subtly paced, tautly scripted and at times truly suspenseful film that touches on empathy , hopelessness and survival by sheer bloody-mindedness. It revels in an asceticism and social realism a million miles away from most of the film product of the country whose quiet desperation it represents.
It also gives the viewer a sliver of hope for the conclusion .For a good deal of it,s running time Frozen River is a pragmatic rather cold hearted film but by the final third a rather reticent thaw sets in. No sure it is the sort of film anybody would want to watch repeatedly but for a one time slice of American indie cinema Frozen River is hard to beat.
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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2010
"Frozen River" is a fascinating tale about people smuggling on the US-Canadian border that has a spark of originality rarely seen these days in the cinema. Ray is a phlegmatic mother,abandoned by her gambler husband a week before Christmas. Desperately trying to make the payments for her family's new home , she hooks up with a Mohawk Indian woman who introduces her to the lucrative but dangerous world of human trafficking. The pair cross the eponymous "Frozen River" into Canada to collect their cargo and the lure of easy money entices them into making it a regular occurrence. However can they keep one step ahead of the law on both sides of the border and avoid capture ? This film is well acted and intriguing ,portraying ordinary people struggling to make ends meet .It is well worth watching.
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on 11 November 2009
You have to see this film - perfect antidote to Hollywood pap. It really takes you there, in a way that even otherwise top films like Slumdog Millionaire don't quite manage. The suspense as she attempts one last run to make the final payment on her mobile home is terrific. And great performances by the kids, particularly TJ. My only quibble is a technical one - the night scenes are so dark, it's hard to make out what's going on. But a great human story that propels you to a brilliant climax.
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