• R, 1 hr. 37 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Courtney Hunt
    In Theaters:
    Aug 1, 2008 Wide
    On DVD:
    Feb 10, 2009
  • Sony Pictures Classics

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Frozen River Reviews

Page 1 of 92
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2009
I can't say exactly why this film so affected me, but it did. It was almost too real, viciously shot, plain and "boring" and heart-breaking enough that it could've been a Canadian film. Melissa Leo is believable, and from the opening shot - her smoking and crying in the car with the door hanging open, snow all around - you're hooked. Made me think of some of the bleaker films I've ever seen, and this one's just not uplifting in any way. A great, realistic story about the lengths people will go to for their children and their way of life, scrappy and well worth watching; strong, minimalist film-making that proves the budget isn't everything.

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2009
A pointless film to say the least, More proof to the fact that being realistic is not enough for a movie to be good, The film depicts poverty & struggle without exploration or insight , It only tries to impress with its shallow bitterness & harshness and Fails
The Gandiman
The Gandiman

Super Reviewer

February 6, 2010
Morose tale of monstrous behavior among the desperate is ably but not expertly assembled. Leo's fearless performance is what stops Frozen from not melting into mediocrity.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2010
An absorbing although bleak story concerning a desperate single mom struggling to make it after her husband deserts her and their two kids. In order to pay the bills she stumbles upon an opportunity to smuggle people in from Canada to the United States, where a frozen river means no border police and limited attention. This film wouldn't be nearly as good without Melissa Leo's extraordinary quietly intense portrayal of a woman whose world is collapsing and desperation is rearing its ugly head. It's never fun to watch and there is one little flaw with the story telling, but for the most part this is gripping stuff that doesn't for one minute feel artificial or that the actors in the film are acting. Leo is just so good in this movie - her weathered face and tired reactions capture all the stress and hurt her character has gone through in her life so far.

Super Reviewer

December 16, 2009
Desperation knows no borders.

Super Reviewer

November 3, 2009
a truer film will be hard to find. Every scene breathes real, real people in real situations trying to survive when given a bad hand.

No overglorified speaches, and the only redemption comes from within. The film is gritty and true in so many different ways as a woman whose gambling husband has robbed her and her two children and then taken a powder, leading her into trafficking illegals across the canadian border in order to make ends meet. Great performances abound, from her fifteen year old son who want to quit school and get a job, to the denizens of the Mohawk reservation, exhibiting a stoicism and wisdom that is simply "there" and not glorified.

The culture clash adds an additional dimension in what is a wonderful charactor study.

Super Reviewer

October 24, 2009
Low budget issue movie singled out by dint of its Oscar nominations but saying little new. Granted Leo gives a convincing portrait of a struggling single mother and her developing relationship with a Mohawk is well handled, but the switchback ending is contrived and it all felt a bit hackneyed.

Super Reviewer

January 6, 2009
Solid, character driven social drama about two impoverished single moms living on the US/Canadian border who become entangled in the smuggling of illegal aliens into the United States. Top notch independent film-making. Good story, good direction, no frills and GREAT performances.

Super Reviewer

March 23, 2009
Melissa Leo's role as a trailer park single mum in Frozen River ranked her amongst esteemed company the likes of Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep. This gripping drama about risk, desperation and survival is an undiscovered gem and highly recommended.
Mark H

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2008
Down on her luck single mother resorts to smuggling illegals into the U.S. in an effort to make ends meet. Film details a side of life in upstate New York, near the Canadian border, rarely seen. Bleak, understated mood and wintry scenes intensify the grim subject matter effectively . Melissa Leo gives a perfectly natural performance and she's matched by Misty Upham who plays her unlikely partner in crime.
Drew S

Super Reviewer

April 19, 2009
It's taken me about a week to bring myself to write anything on Frozen River. I don't really know why that is - it's a strong film, an admirable low-budget effort, and a worthy ground for a veteran actress to finally prove herself. Melissa Leo more than earns her Academy Award nomination here. I don't think the film really cohered to me in any way, though, primarily because of a lack of any notable aesthetic. Courtney Hunt wrote a knockout screenplay (also nominated with good reason) and works very well with her actresses, but there's nothing visual to drink in. Perhaps it's just difficult for me to approach such numbing squalor and there's no fault here but my own. And I'm sure there would have been far more room to innovate and decorate with more than half a million dollars. But Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky managed to create visually captivating films on even less money.

Let's not draw false analogies here, though; those were imperfect films as well, and Frozen River's got enough strengths to justify watching it despite its weaknesses. Again, Leo effortlessly sells her character, making the film truly hard to watch for all her struggling and all her faults. She is hard-edged and almost humorless, but her determination to make things better for her children is something we can all relate to and the film works right there. Lila, played adequately by Misty Upham, is a strong sidekick just because she and Ray really don't like each other. The interplay between the two is tense but never empty; everyone here always has something to say.

Perhaps that's what I admire most about Frozen River. It singularly spanks I've Loved You So Long in terms of being a "quiet indie film" because the movie is ALWAYS making progress. Where the former movie bathed in its own languor, this one is examinatory, smart, not afraid to engage its viewer or throw itself out there. For that, I'd definitely call Frozen River a worthwhile watch, and eagerly await Courtney Hunt's (higher-budgeted, please!) next project.
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

March 8, 2009
Ray: What about police?
Lila: They wont pull you over, your white.

Here's a story set on the border between New York and Canada, around a Mohawk reservation. It involves two women, both single mothers with problems that can be helped with the high payments involved in smuggling people over the border.

Ray, played fantastically by Mellissa Leo, is a mother of two, who is working to move out of a trailer and into new home. Unfortunately, her gambling-addicted husband has left town the week of Christmas, taking the money with him.

Lila is a widowed Mohawk women, whose mother-in-law has taken her son. She stumbles upon Ray's husband's car, as well as Ray, and the two form an unlikely bond.

Essentially Lila tricks Ray into helping her smuggle people, and the two begin a relationship for the sake of the money, with possible danger on the horizon.

I love a serious toned movie that is set in a snowy environment. The way this kind of atmosphere is captured, when its done well, always brings me closer into the state of mind of the characters and story. Its a neat feeling, but the effect snow can have in a serious film works.

This is a very good movie, working mainly due to the very good performances by the two mothers. Its low budget but still looks very good. Its not flashy, just well put together. The material is steeped in drama, but its an absorbing film.

Ray: What are they?
Lila: Packies.
Ray: What's that?
Lila: Means they're from Pakistan.
Ray: Well where the fuck's that?
Lila: I don't know, just open the trunk.
Alice S

Super Reviewer

February 24, 2009
My first and probably only 5 stars of this Oscar season. It's just a perfect movie in terms of its completely subtle treatment of immigration, poverty, race relations. It wasn't a huge outburst turning point like in The Visitor, but a small gesture - Ray quietly asking the cop, "What's gonna happen to them?" - a question she would never have asked before. The script is an aching slow-burn with suspenseful plot points. Melissa Leo's performance is gritty and moving.
Michael S

Super Reviewer

August 18, 2008
A gritty independant gem. FROZEN RIVER feels almost like a documentary, with it's shoe-string budget, HD shakey cam photography, and very believeable performances. A gripping story and lush snow-covered locales reminded me a little of Fargo, but there is no dark comedy, or comedy of any kind here! Expect to be saddened and a little depressed, and you may be truely surprised.

Melissa Leo gives easily one of the best performances this year. Lets see if she's remembered come Oscar time.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

February 17, 2009
Give me a fucking break. The two stars are for Melissa Leo and even there I think that's just me being nostalgic. (I was a huge Homicide fan and I think she is extremely talented). There are really strong parts of the film which show the despair in their living situation. But, again, every other actor is fucking unbearable. If it's not the other female lead (did they pick her up off the street?), it's the fucking ridiculous Mark Boone Junior who for some reason puts on a really cheesy accent to make himself seem more "evil". I didn't mind the human smuggling arc, but felt if they would have stuck more with the fact that all of this terrible stuff was happening to her, it would have made for a better film. There is also the fact that the movie at certain points looks like a fucking student film. I appreciate independent movies made on a shoe string budget, but, again, if you are telling me that this is better than Winslet's powerhouse performance in Revolutionary Road, you are fucking crazy.
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

February 12, 2009
An intense, gripping and very realistic drama that fits perfectly with the economic crisis we're all suffering from.

FROZEN RIVER is proof that you can make a great thriller with a low budget and a practically unknown cast. It offers some interesting characters with a lot of depth and a fantastic script by Oscar-nominated writer/director Courtney Hunt in her feature debut.

A pretty solid performance from Melissa Leo and, I can't believe nobody mentioned this before, but Charlie McDermott was very impressive as the mature, concerned T.J.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

February 9, 2009
Under the filth and grime of Hollywood live some incredible American movies. Frozen River is one of them. Like Shotgun Stories or All the Real Girls this is a quiet and honest look at real American lives. We feel for the characters because we can see aspects of ourselves in them. The performances are also understated and have that certain element of subtle quality. The cold lifeless landscape also captures the mood of the piece. It is uplifting in many ways, but treads a dark path to get there. I wonderful watch and proof that simple, pure cinema can be fascinating and enthralling.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

December 30, 2008
I like this because it is straightforward. It has one topic and it zooms in very specifically on the plights of one woman, one life choice she has to make. Conveys a thorough atmosphere of poverty with no concessions. Hunt made the decision to shoot a completely cold movie with few positive moments and I think she succeeded. The dialogue itself isn't that interesting but certain wry remarks struck me because they were so true and so...thematic, somehow. The cathartic ending was necessary after all that darkness. As for the SAG and Oscar buzz, personally I think Melissa Leo's performance here is overrated. It's good, sure, but I think any capable actress in this role could have pulled out a performance just as good. It's the role that acts for itself.
Mark A

Super Reviewer

February 17, 2009
Desperate times call for desperate measures. A bleak tale set in a frozen landscape in far northern New York state. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) is a woman trying to improve her lot in life and who finds herself smuggling illegal aliens across the border from Canada. Melissa Leo plays Ray with a combination of tenderness and ferocity that few actresses could have managed. She may not win any beauty pageants, but her acting is phenomenal. The interaction between her and the native woman, Lila (Misty Upman) began in mutual distrust and ended in quiet respect. This viewer felt privileged to tag along on the journey. There are a few lighthearted moments that manage to keep the film from toppling over into maudlin and the politics of smuggling is not addressed, or this could have easily become polemic. No, this is a story about the strength of this woman in the face of circumstances that might have crushed a less determined soul. Sometimes one has to do what one must in order to survive and then live with the consequences of those actions.
Page 1 of 92
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