Movie Review – Frozen River (2008)

Director: Courtney Hunt

Stars: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott

Ray (Leo) is a struggling mother with a disappearing, gambling addict husband. She’s being pulled from all sides and it’s just before Christmas. Due to a chain of circumstances she finds herself involved with a smuggling operation, bringing in illegal immigrants over the border between Canada and America, via a Native American reservation. She leaves her sons at home while she earns some extra cash, but is always at the risk of being caught by the state troopers.

Frozen River is in a genre that I like to call ‘misery porn’. It’s where the film is so bleak and so depressing that it’s main goal is to try and break your human spirit. This type of film certainly isn’t for everyone because it can be unrelenting in its despair and I’d say most people watch movies for escapism and to get away from the problems of the world, so if this doesn’t sound like a movie for you then simply avoid it.

I quite liked it though. Leo gave a good performance as the determined and frustrated woman who just wants to survive. She was supported by Misty Upham, who at first seemed like a jerk but by the end she became perhaps the warmest and most likeable character. McDermott was good as Ray’s son, and the scenes between the mother and the son were filled with a raw emotional intensity.

I think it ends up being more hopeful than it could have. I feared at one point that it would veer off into a completely dark place, but glimmers of hope shone through. It definitely captured the mood it intended to and I found it captivating, so if you like this sort of film then I’d recommend it, but again if you use films as a way to escape life then it’s probably not going to be for you.

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