NPR logo

A 'Frozen River,' Treacherous And Deep

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93280688/93293349" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A 'Frozen River,' Treacherous And Deep

Movies

A 'Frozen River,' Treacherous And Deep

A 'Frozen River,' Treacherous And Deep

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93280688/93293349" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

To support themselves, Lila (Misty Upham, left) and Ray (Melissa Leo) smuggle illegal Pakistani and Chinese immigrants into Canada. Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures hide caption

toggle caption Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures

To support themselves, Lila (Misty Upham, left) and Ray (Melissa Leo) smuggle illegal Pakistani and Chinese immigrants into Canada.

Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures

As Ray (Leo) becomes enmeshed in the world of smuggling, she finds herself at odds with Trooper Finnerty (Michael O'Keefe). Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures hide caption

toggle caption Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures

As Ray (Leo) becomes enmeshed in the world of smuggling, she finds herself at odds with Trooper Finnerty (Michael O'Keefe).

Jory Sutton/Sony Pictures

Frozen River

  • Director: Courtney Hunt
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Rated R: Through arduous treks and frosty winters, the women grit their teeth and curse their lot.

Watch Clips

As the summer heats up, let Frozen River wash over you. Let its bracing drama and the intensity of its acting restore your spirits as well as your faith in American independent film.

Frozen River tells the story of two women who end up unlikely partners smuggling illegal immigrants over the Canadian border.

One — the perennially underutilized Melissa Leo, finally getting to carry a film — is a beleaguered wife and mother trying to hold her family together after her husband leaves. The other, played by Misty Upham, is a sullen, hostile Mohawk woman.

These two individuals don't want to be on the same planet, let alone work together. Their powerhouse confrontations are the heart of Frozen River; together, these two exceptional actresses create a film that's spare and unsentimental, as well as intensely dramatic.

First time writer-director Courtney Hunt is especially good at creating the hardscrabble world these characters inhabit, an all-too-plausible universe of frustrated expectations and stunted existences. In a world like this, the worst could plausibly happen and nobody would even blink.

We come to understand how much these exhausted women, tired of being on the short end of the stick, have in common, though they don't necessarily see it. One of the questions Frozen River asks is how much that kinship will mean in an uncaring, unforgiving real world.

It is a powerful question — and the film answers it in a way that will knock you out.

'Call Me When You Have the Money'

'I'm Not Crossing That'

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.