What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film, which earned actress Melissa Leo an Oscar nomination for Best Actress as well as a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, is a serious, strong, and well-made drama loaded with topics worthy of serious discussion, as well as some harsh language. Parents also need to know that the film is not shy about depicting illegal activity and working-class poverty.
What's the story?
In an upstate New York border town, Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) waits on the delivery of her family's new double-wide trailer ... even though her gambling-addicted husband has taken the down payment without her knowledge or consent. Ray, tracking her husband, crosses paths with Lila (Misty Upham), a young Mohawk woman who tries to borrow, buy, and steal Ray's car; Lila's a smuggler, taking illegal immigrants across the frozen river from the Mohawk land on the Canadian side back to New York. Soon, the two women make an agreement and an alliance, each needing the other to earn much-needed money.
Is it any good?
FROZEN RIVER, a little-seen Sundance independent film that earned Oscar nominations for actress Melissa Leo and for the screenplay by writer-director Courtney Hunt, is somehow both a grim, gritty drama and a breath of fresh air. While Frozen River revolves around the kind of moral, ethical, and financial questions rarely seen in film -- and does so through rich, real characters -- it also has a strong element of suspense and tension, mixing a socially-conscious drama with the tension and thrills of a crime film.
Leo's Oscar-nominated performance is excellent; Misty Upham, as her partner-in-crime, is also superb. Writer-director Hunt also makes her mark on the film, and her commentary on the DVD is a great discussion of the high-level ideas that lie under her script and the more direct concerns of the challenges in making her film with a minimal budget and rushed schedule. Frozen River is principled but never preachy, engaging but never anything less than superbly entertaining. If Leo's nomination means more people seek out and see Frozen River, then one good thing's already come out of the 2008 Oscars.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the complex circumstances and characters of the film. What drives Ray to become a human smuggler? What lies behind Lila's decision and actions? Families can also talk about the economic challenges faced by the lead characters -- why is it that this kind of real-world challenge is so infrequently seen in films? Finally, families can also talk about the privilege Ray has even as a poor working mother -- as Lila notes, the cops won't pull her over, "... 'cause you're white. ..."