Political Film Society - Frozen River

PFS Film Review
Frozen River


Frozen RiverThe independent film Frozen River, directed by Courtney Hunt, is a well-edited drama that moves quickly from one situation to another with profound implications regarding how illegals enter the United States. The principal focus is on Ray Eddy (played by Melissa Leo), mother of two, who lives in a run-down trailer unable to keep up bills for two reasons. Her employer arbitrarily limits her to part-time employment despite an admirable work record, and her husband is a gambler who has just left for Atlantic City one week before Christmas, leaving keys in his car at the bus station. While looking for him, Ray arrives at the bus station just in time to stop Lila (played by Misty Upham), who is driving off in what she thought was an abandoned car. Although the women are very different—a white woman who fits the profile of white trash and a Mohawk woman—they both live in run-down trailers and have little money to feed themselves. Lila has given her one-year-old to a friend so that the infant will have some food and security. The car in question has a large trunk with room for two persons, so Lila proposes that the two do some smuggling of illegals for some easy money. Ray accepts, and the film shifts into exposé mode, demonstrating that payment is forthcoming at both ends of the smuggling route, which involves driving back and forth on the frozen St. Lawrence River, mostly through the territory of the Mohawk Nation, which includes areas on both side of the border. When the vehicle enters the United States, a trooper does not stop the car because Ray is white. One night, however, the trooper stops the car because a tail light is out, and he discovers he later warns Ray that a notorious Mohawk smuggler was sitting alongside, though he does not require the trunk to be opened. Filmviewers learn a little about the internal politics of the Mohawk Nation and how American authorities keep out of Mohawk territory as the film comes to an inevitable conclusion involving law enforcement. MH

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