Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Frozen River" (2008) - Movie Review

Remember when the border patrol officer in “Babel” steps back and puts one hand on his holster when a normal questioning of the driver becomes suspicious? You would be engulfed with that feeling of being scared helpless when Ray (Melissa Leo) and a Mohawk named Lila (Misty Upham) smuggle a Pakistani couple across the border. It is the single most heart stopping event in this film which no doubt is one of the best films of 2008. Written and directed by Courtney Hunt, it takes the illegal immigrant smuggling this time around through the frozen river spread across on an Indian Reservation in the border of Canada near upstate New York.

The chilling morning wakes up the family of Ray. A mobile dream home of theirs is sent back when Ray’s husband has left them without the payment money. He is a gambling addict we know through slipping lines of conversation between Ray and her elder fifteen year old son T. J (Charlie McDermott). Both love the house’s pet kid Ricky (James Reilly). Ray works in a grocery store and swims her fingers through the lump of coins in her hand every time a necessity for cash comes by. She spots her husband’s car run by some one else and following it leads to the Land of Mohawk where police jurisdiction ends. She meets Lila and not particularly in a mood for friendship as she struggles through to get her stolen car back. Lila suggests that she knows some one who would pay good money for the car. And Ray is tricked into a quick run of smuggling illegal immigrants from Canada border hiding them in the trunk of the car. There will be couple of easy trips to encourage Ray to get in for a scary two trips.

Like it or not, the wide spread of multi diverse nationalities throughout US is something has come to reflect in every part of the life in the country. There is at least one Indian guy in a Sitcom or a Television series. And there is sure to get a hit of Call Center jokes and California being said as another extension of Mexico or the take outs from a Chinese Restaurant in the daily Late night talk shows. I recall the times when I heard the various methods to be immigrated to Canada which is a one stop before US. And I was venturing into the regular legal traffic of getting to the country of US myself, do Masters. The American dream has definitely caught up with the speed and the flow of this population despite the sighs and groans from the people of the country. It has also led to a system of inter dependency. “Frozen River” takes that desperation in to its back ground story. Lila explains that the cost of transporting one person across the border is so much that they got to work for their owner in US for a year without wages to pay it. And Ray wonders why they want to come here when she is struggling herself to make ends meet. She does not know the conversion rates of dollars to other currencies.

Ray and Lila who are united by the force of financial need than anything else come to understand each other as the film’s intentions are but not on their differences. They both are mothers in the mess of being stranded and seeing through their day hour by hour. Lila has been robbed of her year old son and Ray knows how much her sons miss their dad whom she of course hates. With those, Ray and Lila go through the business through some good people and obviously the bad people along the way.

Melissa Leo makes it look easy. I hardly come to notice the performance when the moment comes for her character to save her own self and then look back on the river she has crossed to redeem something. She is fierce, hard and carries the common contempt in the overlooking of Indian Reservation being left for their own rules and systems. She is bold and foolish but uses that because of her need to support her family than being selfish.

There are films which brings together the people of various origins to point the stereotypic elements and then tweak the preconceived notions on each other into a mix of tense and scary situations. At that time, believe it or not you would forget the origin. Not in the melodramatic cliched manner but truly the fear grabbing by the neck and making you worry. The path to destruction is visible throughout as the characters knows it too and at that instance the feeling of good people being hurt is unbearable. You want to understand and do the best for make it go away. There are films which agonizes and makes you feel to wish that every one watch the film and give a chance for the people around them. “Crash” and “Babel” does that. So does “Frozen River”.

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