Date: August 1
Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Michael O’Keefe, Mark Boone Junior
Time: Sony Pictures Classics, 97 mins.
named drama Frozen River has a lovely metaphor running up its
chilly spine. A woman named Ray in upstate New York needs a new
trailer for her family but is having a hard time coming up with the
down payment. Her absent husband is no help. She lives near a Mohawk
reservation on the U.S.-Canadian border, where jurisdictions abut and
immigration happens on the sly, and she soon finds herself
moonlighting for a local smuggler named Lila. Give someone a ride
across the border, make a little extra money. Sounds simple enough.
The only problem is that the ice they drive across, the frozen St.
Lawrence River, is one day bound to crack.
Courtney Hunt sets up Frozen River’s central conflicts
fairly early: the bills that need to be paid, the family that needs a
better home, the opportunities at the edge of the law. And once
they’re in place, it’s just a matter of time before it all falls
apart. A few contrivances seem to exist mainly to make the plot
twisty and poignant, and much of the dialogue simply reinforces the
obvious, but the two lead actors—Misty Upham as Lila and Melissa
Leo as the mother caught in her web—are strong. They’re playing
characters with histories and motives, and Hunt might have made a
more organic and insightful film if she’d used the story’s
dangers as the silent underpinnings for the relationship. Instead,
those elements swell into the foreground and take symbolic shapes
that ring false at every turn. One woman gets eyeglasses so she can
really see while another deals with a baby left on the surface
of the frozen river.
metaphor that’s as quiet as the falling snow is sublime; a metaphor
that grows tentacles and screeches like a buzzard is maddening.