Frozen River (Hunt, 2008)


From the opening frame, the icy landscape in Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River remains inescapable and all-consuming for its tragic characters, average people on the verge of economic and emotional collapse. Abandoned by her gambler husband, Ray Eddy (Oscar nominated Melissa Leo) sits in her car lamenting the loss of her family’s life savings more than the man who stole it. Through a series chance occurrences, Ray gets criminally involved with Lila (Misty Upham), a Mohawk woman smuggling illegal aliens over the border through sanctioned Indian Reservation land, in an effort to stave off poverty for her two young children. All character motivation in Frozen River boils down to some form of tradable currency, be it human trafficking, hard cash, and freedom in general. There’s also a fascinating subtextual current of female conviction in the face of male political and social injustices, exemplified best by Lila and Ray’s ability to trust each other over all other familiarities and institutions. Frozen River leans more toward the Neo-noir than any other class, but it uses these stylized genre conventions to highlight an earnestness and honor behind the crimes being committed. Ray and Lila recognize the layered desperation in each other, producing a palpable connection amidst the blinding and suffocating white that dominates their existence.

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