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Frozen River

133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Life in Massena is as harsh and barren as the frigid landscape. In this bleak terrain, two hardened single mothers are trying to make lives for their children. Lila is a widowed Mohawk whose mother-in-law "stole" her newborn son a year ago. Ray is a mother of two whose gambling-addicted husband just left town with the down payment for their new trailer home. Faced with little opportunity to make ends meet, Ray and Lila embark on an illegal venture transporting immigrants into the U.S. across Mohawk territory. With the money for the down payment within Ray's grasp, the women are determined to make one last run. When circumstances spiral out of control, the two women must make life or death decisions based on their friendship and love for their children.

When her husband runs off with the payment for their new home, Ray (Melissa Leo, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) turns to crime to keep herself and her two sons afloat. A chance encounter with Lila (Misty Upham, Edge of America), an equally desperate young Mohawk woman, leads Ray to smuggling illegal immigrants by driving across the frozen Hudson River onto tribal land. But with every trip, things go wrong in small and not-so-small ways, until Ray finds herself pushed into a more desperate corner than ever before. Leo delivers a gritty, restrained, but richly compelling performance; her raw face, beautiful but worn down by life, radiates a weary defiance. Frozen River has scenes as tense as any Hollywood thriller, but so grounded in the fully developed characters of these two women that the taut suspense grips the full spectrum of your emotions. This is an impressive debut by writer/director Courtney Hunt, featuring excellent supporting performances by Charlie McDermott (The Ten) as Ray's unhappy oldest son and Michael O'Keefe (The Great Santini) as a suspicious state trooper. --Bret Fetzer

Stills from Frozen River (click for larger image)

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Melissa Leo, Michael O'Keefe, Misty Upham, Patrice Jersey, Mark Boone Junior
  • Directors: Courtney Hunt
  • Producers: Heather Rae, Chip Hourihan
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001KEHAG2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,236 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Frozen River" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

This 2008 independent film won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It is the first film by director Courtney Hunt and it was shot in just 24 days and a small budget in the upstate New York town of Plattsburgh, New York during the dead of winter.

This is the story of two women and takes place a few days before Christmas. Ray, played by Melissa Leo, has just been deserted by her husband. She's in her late forties and is the mother of a 15-year old and a 5-year old boy. She works part time in a dead-end job in dollar store and is almost penniless. She can barely feed her family, her TV is about to be repossessed and there seems to be no way she can make the balloon payment on a new double-wide trailer on which she has a down payment. Lila, played by Misty Upham, is a Mohawk Indian who lives on the reservation and works in the local bingo parlor. She is also penniless. Her husband is dead. Her baby has been taken from her by her mother-in-law, and she lives in a run-down trailer on the reservation. This reservation occupies parts of Canada as well as the U.S., and she can make some good money by driving across the frozen river between the countries and smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. But she needs a car. And Ray has the right kind of car with a large trunk.

The landscape is cold and bleak. Their car is a rickety Dodge Spirit. The women are strong, hard and desperate. They hate each other but soon realize that if they work together they might be able to improve their situations. The plot moves fast and is almost pure action. Their characterizations grow out of their situation. We see the different ways that Indians and whites are treated. We understand the hatred that the Indian woman feels for the white woman.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By RMurray847 VINE VOICE on September 27, 2008
FROZEN RIVER is not the sort of movie that will ever generate excited enthusiasm or exuberant praise. It is a movie of quiet power, and a reminder of what acting can really be like. It won't change lives or stir national debate. But it can remind us that movies have the power to show us, up close, how others live.

Set in upstate New York, right along the border to Canada, we meet Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo), a late 40-something mother of 2 boys, aged 15 & 5. She's sitting her beat up little car, in front of her seriously run-down tiny mobile home...obviously frozen in shock or anger or sadness over something she's seeing (or not seeing) in her glove box. Turns out her husband Troy, a problem gambler, has found her hard-earned stash of cash...the cash that was to make the initial payment on a new double-wide mobile home for her family. We soon learn that Ray Eddy is almost single-minded in her NEED to get this trailer for her family. For these very poor folks, it is a step into that promises a better life for her kids and a Jacuzzi tub for her.

Her oldest son is often left to care for the younger kid, and he has a pretty good idea of just how broke his family is. He even turns to phone credit card scams to earn some extra money. But he's only 15 after all, and he might think he's pretty hardened, but he's not. He's also torn between anger at his mother (who he blames for driving his dad away) and anger at his father for gambling their money away and leaving home.
While searching for signs of her husband, Ray Eddy meets Lily (Misty Upham) a belligerent, empty-faced Mohawk woman with problems of her own.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2009
Format: DVD
Melissa Leo plays the character of Ray in this fantastic independent film. Married to a gambling addict who has run off shortly before Christmas, Ray is a single parent being hounded by creditors. All she has in the house for her two children to eat is Tang and some chips. She works at the 'Lucky Dollar' store and has been hoping for two years for a promotion that is not going to happen.

Melissa and her two children live in a single-wide trailer that is falling apart. Her dream is to get a double-wide. Circumstances lead her to meet and hook up with a young woman from the Mohawk Nation. Together, they engage in smuggling illegal aliens from Canada to the U.S. Ray plans to stop as soon as she has enough money for the double-wide. However,it looks like the police are on to her. Will she be able to make the last runs to get enough money?

Ray and her young friend begin their relationship as adversaries and as the movie progresses they begin to connect, each appreciating the other and developing trust and respect.

The movie shows the bleakness of the reservation and the adjoining town in upstate New York. The poverty is more like a third world nation than the U.S.

I loved the movie. Its understatement let the characters evolve through their actions in dire circumstances. We learn about them by what they do and how they respond to others. There are no special effects, just the beauty of the photography and the depth of character development. This movie is a gem which I highly recommend.
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