For those of you who aren’t already in the know, “Frozen River” is the definition of indepenent cinema and one of the best movies of 2008. Since it was just released on DVD I figured I would give you, my faithful readers, five reasons why you should see this little gem.
1. The obvious reason: it’s star Melissa Leo, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role. “Frozen River” would be nothing without the ferocity Leo brings to the role of Ray. It’s the role Charlize Theron would have clawed her way to the top to play and thank God Leo scored it. Leo plays Ray, a single mother who’s husband has left her family without any warning or way of tracking him down; so in effort to make ends meet and to afford the double decker trailer she wants for her family, Ray starts smuggling immigrants across the Canada border into upstate New York.
2. Charlie McDermott. Playing the role of Ray’s son, T.J., McDermott completely humanizes a role that could have been taken to a new level of douchebag-edness had it been left in the wrong hands. I actually didn’t like McDermott’s character in the beginning but as the movie went on you are, yes, introduced to his flaws, but also what makes him such a good person. The scene where he goes out of his way to buy his little brother the Christmas present he wants the most is one of the most touching of the movie.
3. The opening shot of Ray smoking a cigerette, teary-eyed, and looknig extremely pissed is probably one of the most striking shots to grace movies in a while.
4. These characters are played by real people, not just Hollywood actors. I think it would have been kind of hard to imagine Angelina Jolie as a struggling single mother who was desperate to make money. No offense to Jolie but she’s too much of a celebrity to play a role like this. Even though Leo has been in dozens of films, most people have never even heard of her. In a recent article with Filmmaker magazine, Leo discussed how for a while she just took what roles were given to her but throughout it all has always done acting for the love of it, not the fame. And I think in one of the most interesting pieces of info that has come out recently, Misty Uphom who plays Lila had to work a double shift at her job at the dry cleaners the day after she attended the Oscars because she couldn’t find someone to cover for her. So when I heard that McDermott, Leo, and Uphomm had been nominated for Spirit Awards for this movie I was completely beaming with pride when I saw them at the awards show. It’s stories like these that make me really appreciate the actors who give everything to play a role like this.
And the final reason you should see “Frozen River”:
5. the film has one of the most touching and inspiring messages about self-less love I’ve seen in a long time. It’s ending heartbreaking, moving and absolutely realistic all in one. It made me hope that one day, more people could be as self-less as Ray was.
If you still need more convincing (and you shouldn’t), here’s the trailer: