Upstate New York, and the cold is thin and sharp in the weak harsh light of morning. Ray (Melissa Leo) sits in the driveway in her nightgown, having a smoke, barefoot. The company's bringing her family's new double-wide trailer today, and all she needs to do is give them the first payment. But that money's gone, stolen by her husband, taken to the casino, just like before. The company won't drop off her new home without the payment; they head back to the lot. She gets her sons ready for school, digging lunch money out of the few coins she has left, and then she's going to try and find her husband at the bingo parlor on the Mohawk reservation before working her part-time shift at the American Dollar discount store. She can't give up. She's going to get that home delivered before Christmas. But that's going to take money. And getting that much money that fast is going to take everything.

Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, Frozen River began as a short film that bowed at Sundance several years ago; like Half Nelson, that short became a feature film. The Grand Jury Prize winner from the Dramatic Competition at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Frozen River is anchored by strong performances, carefully crafted and shot on DV with an eye on art, not mere economy. Ray's search for her husband brings her to the Mohawk Reservation; she finds her husband's car, but not her husband. When Lila (Misty Upham) drives off in his sedan, Ray follows her to a trailer in the woods. Lila thought the car was abandoned; the keys were inside. And she needs a car with a push-button trunk. ...

categories Reviews, Cinematical