Wednesday, October 8, 2008
movie recommendation: Frozen River
M and I saw a really good movie over the weekend. I guess it's on limited release in NY and LA for now. But if you happen to notice that it's playing at a theatre near you, I strongly recommend that you go and see this.
Frozen River is a drama about a single mom struggling to make her next mortgage payment before her rent to own mobile home gets taken from her. She lives in upstate New York in a little town that borders a Mohawk reservation/Canada. She ends up getting involved in a human smuggling operation that leads her to make a difficult decision with surprising and hopeful results.
It was very well written with spare dialogue that was nonetheless impactful. The movie starts off a bit slow (that could have just been me as I was sort of not feeling well when we entered the theatre) but the characters and story engage you and keep your attention to the very end. Melissa Leo, the actress who portrayed the main character was terrific. She was every bit the tired, put-upon, at the end of her ropes single mom scrambling to make ends meet, overlooking her oldest son's earnest efforts to fill the role of man of the house, snapping at him instead because of mundane mistakes that he made (like burning popcorn). I've never seen her before and I'm inclined to believe that part of this film's believability was in casting unknown faces to grace the screen. Even the slightly stilted performances in the supporting roles (as portrayed by Misty Upham and Charlie McDermott) lended to the credibility of this slice of life tale.
First time writer/director Courtney Hunt did a fine job of conveying the drudgery and squalor of the lower economic class in a struggling border town. Her shots were cold. You could feel it sitting in the movie theatre watching the actors trudge across the snow, or driving through the slush. I have just a minor criticism of her framing as I thought she got too close for some of the close-up shots which was sort of distracting because they didn't feel like they needed to be shot so close. And I really appreciated how she incorporated native indian characters as part of the story without going down the usual trite path of dreamcatcher-type kitsch.
It's not a happy/feel-good movie that the whole family can enjoy. It's certainly dreary, there's a bit of tension sprinkled judiciously throughout, but I think the characters are totally relatable and the ending leaves you with a sense of hope that really warms the spirit.