Straight dramatic features have not been feeling the love from distributors at Sundance so far, with most of the deal action concentrated on documentaries (American Teen, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired), comedies (Hamlet 2) or comedy/dramas (Choke, Henry Poole is Here). But leave it to Sony Pictures Classics to step up to the plate and acquire the rights to a well-received drama about impoverished single mothers. Variety is reporting that the distributor has purchased US rights to Frozen River"for a low to mid-six figures."

Expanded by debut director Courtney Hunt from her short film of the same title, Frozen River has already received some very warm notices (sorry, couldn't resist). The wonderful, versatile, and extremely busy Melissa Leo plays a woman suddenly abandoned in a desperate state by her gambling husband. Unable to even put a decent meal on the table for her two sons, she forms an unlikely partnership with another struggling mother (Misty Upham) to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States.

Sony Pictures Classics is known as a classy outfit; for example, their Oscar hopefuls this year include Best Animated Film nominee Persepolis and Best Foreign Language Film nominee The Counterfeiters. They were in the running for American Teen, but dropped out a couple of days ago.

Frozen River sounds like the type of small, rural drama that will require tender loving care to make its mark in the cold, cruel world of arthouse exhibition. For the sake of quality independent films dealing with subjects seldom seen, let's hope they succeed.