Dark & Chilling, But Excellent
ĎFrozen Riverí is Courtney Huntís directorial debut and this work was honored at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival with the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Filmmaking. If youíve never heard of this title, itís understandable. This is yet another gem of an independent film that pretty much flew under the wire with regard to general movie audiences due to a limited release. Thanks to DVD, you can still enjoy this masterful work.
Ms Huntís story centers on two women who are both in difficult straights and reluctantly partner in the smuggling of illegal immigrants across the border in upstate New York. Melissa Leo (ĎRighteous Killí, ĎAmerican Guní) plays Ray Eddy, a struggling mom with two sons; a husband who can only be counted on to let the family down; and a pipe dream of purchasing a double-wide (as in mobile home) so they can move out of their existing, crumbling trailer. Ray crosses paths with Lila Littlewolf (played here by Misty Upham) while trying to track down her husband. It seems Lila, who has dubious ties to the local Indian reservation, also has possession of the car belonging to Rayís husband.
As Ray and Lila begin to understand each other, their common desperate situations lead them into the smuggling business. They soon find that the task is a lot more perilous than they originally thought, but they donít realize that they are each risking what little they both have until itís too late.
Ms Huntís film follows a documentary style and it is easy to forget you are watching a movie. Actors Leo and Upham deliver flawless performances and you canít help but be drawn into their characters. Details like Ray serving Tang and popcorn to her kids as a meal, or Lila holed up in her tiny camper in the dead of winter are only part of the pallet Hunt uses to paint her dark and dramatic tale. The overall result is a tight, focused and no-frills film that still carries a dramatic punch. Watch, enjoy, oh Ė and pass the Tang and popcorn please.