Saturday, 11 February 2012

From the archive: "Frozen River"

Faced with box-office wizardry this weekend, rival distributors proffer harsh realities. Courtney Hunt's Frozen River casts a gnarled Melissa Leo as Ray, a debt-ridden single mother raising her sons in the snowy hinterland of upstate New York. This is Sunshine Cleaning's frostier flipside: desperate for quick bucks, Ray teams up with a young Mohawk woman (Misty Upham) to offer a part-time people-smuggling service, packing her car boot with Chinese labour and driving over the iced-up Saint Lawrence separating the U.S. from Canada.

If the river proves a rather obvious metaphor for the thin ice our heroine is skating on - yes, it (and she) cracks under the strain, eventually - Hunt's Oscar-nominated screenplay otherwise carefully sets out its themes of property and territory, establishing just what Ray is prepared to do to keep the wolves from her door. Many of the ingredients for a downer night out are present, but director and star pull you into these lives of enforced flexibility, and even find notes of resourcefulness to cheer there: note the use of microwave popcorn as both makeshift breakfast and something to freshen the air when your trailer catches fire.

(The Sunday Telegraph, 19 July 2009)

Frozen River screens on BBC1 this Wednesday night at 11.55pm.

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