Frozen River


Frozen River

Critics Consensus

Veteran character actress Melissa Leo delivers a stunning performance in this powerful -- if grim -- indie film.



Total Count: 134


Audience Score

User Ratings: 85,860
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Movie Info

Frozen River is the story of Ray Eddy, an upstate New York trailer mom who is lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling when she meets a Mohawk girl who lives on a reservation that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. Broke after her husband takes off with the down payment for their new doublewide, Ray reluctantly teams up with Lila, a smuggler, and the two begin making runs across the frozen St. Lawrence River carrying illegal Chinese and Pakistani immigrants in the trunk of Ray's Dodge Spirit.


Michael O'Keefe
as Trooper Finnerty
Jay Klaitz
as Guy Versailles
John Canoe
as Bernie Littlewolf
Michael Sky
as Billy Three Rivers
Chen Li
as Chinese Girl
Li Wei
as Chinese Girl
Pun Bandhu
as Chinese Man
Mark Boone Jr.
as Jacque Bruno
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News & Interviews for Frozen River

Critic Reviews for Frozen River

All Critics (134) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (118) | Rotten (16)

  • Frozen River is a taut, suspenseful thriller; a troubling of borders both cultural and national; and testament to the virtues of communion, empathy and compassion.

    Jul 17, 2009 | Rating: 4/5
  • Occasionally marred by contrivance and a crude internal logic that doesn't bear close scrutiny, 'Frozen River' works best as a knuckle-gnawing, blue-collar genre thriller.

    Jul 17, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Leo and Upham give performances of great conviction and the film is bold and uncliched: especially the matter-of-fact treatment of guns.

    Jul 17, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Everything about the film looks and feels authentic, from the desolate landscape dotted with trailers and fast-food joints to the people who populate a borderland that offers none of them much hope.

    Jul 17, 2009 | Rating: 4/5
  • Frozen River represents one of the best examples of the new trend for austerity and social realism in American indie cinema.

    Jul 17, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Hunt's grip on the impulsive fumblings of real-life behaviour is so firm that you stay with her all the way, almost forgetting to breathe. It's a simple story but a primal one, and it gives Leo the role she's long deserved.

    Feb 27, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Frozen River

  • Jan 04, 2014
    Having been acting since 1984, "Frozen River" marked Melissa Leo's revival, bringing her an Oscar nomination and an a continued impressive career to follow. Bringing to life the white trash life style in New York, Ray's (Melissa Leo) dreams of getting a new double-wide trailer with a jacuzzi tub are dashed when her gambling husband runs off with all their money. Suddenly thrown into the world of smuggling illegal immigrants to the U.S. by means of a Native American reservation, director Courtney Hunt brings this incredibly dark story to life, creating a tight-knit film that runs on necessity, and means to an end. Leo must provide for her two sons and with the double-wide hanging over their heads and a dead end part-time job, smuggling immigrants becomes a main source of living. Mirrored by co-star Misty Upham, as the Native American, Lila Littlewolf, who gets Ray involved in the racket, she is unable to be with her child, who was taken after her husband was killed. Together, they find a silent understanding that although this may be illegal, it gets them closer to providing for their families and therefore presents a silver lining. However, when strange factors begin to play, including a mysterious duffel bag that brings about some alarming drama and the arm of the law coming down in the form of a local sheriff, the thriller portion of the film takes full effect. Melissa Leo delivers an amazing performance and makes "Frozen River" a pleasure to watch.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2013
    Melissa Leo's breakout role is tremendously good. Her interactions with Lila are fabulous as two individuals thrown together by circumstance.Gritty in a good way.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 16, 2010
    A struggling single mum, Ray, is left in the lurch when her husband randomly leaves her and she can't afford to pay for a new home for her and her two kids, let alone Christmas. When she gets a chance to make some easy money transporting people over the Canadian border along with a fellow single mother she does. But the more she does it the more dangerous it becomes. Melissa Leo's performnce as Ray is brilliant and earned her an Oscar nomination and although i wasn't blown away, this is a well made thriller and worth a look.
    Adam M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 06, 2010
    Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, the screenplay focuses on two working-class women who smuggle illegal immigrants in the trunk of a car from Canada to the United States in order to make ends meet. Melissa Leo was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her impressive role. The film is set in the North Country of Upstate New York, near the Akwesasne ('Where the Partridge Drum') St. Regis Mohawk Reservation and the Canadian border, shortly before Christmas. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) is a discount store clerk struggling to raise two sons with her husband, a compulsive gambler who has disappeared with the funds she had earmarked to finance the purchase of a double-wide mobile home. While searching for him, she encounters Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a Mohawk bingo-parlor employee who is driving his car, which she claims she found abandoned with the keys in the ignition at the local bus-station. The two women, who have fallen on hard economic times, form a desperate and uneasy alliance and begin trafficking illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States across the frozen St. Lawrence River for $1200 each per crossing. Wonderful cinematography and music. Superb.
    Andre T Super Reviewer

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