Thursday, 3 December 2009

Frozen River, Courtney Hunt, USA 2008

For all its awards at festivals of independent film across the world, notably the Grand Jury Award at Sundance nearly 2 years ago, Frozen River is actually a mainstream picture that comes in the guise of an 'indie'. While the plot itself, revolving around a dispossessed woman who, deserted by her do-no-good husband, decides to hook up with an on-the-skids native American woman to smuggle illegal immigrants over the Canadian border, undoubtedly has all the makings of an indie, the plot twists do not: they might as well have come straight from Paramount or Universal or both, where the screenplay might have been 'developed' by a slew of writers and subsequently gone through any number of rewrites - that, at least, is how arbitrary and, at times, hard to believe, the plot line is.

But now the good news: while Frozen River may not be your ordinary 'indie' with a non-linear narrative and so on and so forth, the film reveals its 'indie' quality - for lack of a better term - primarily in its pacing and in its gritty feel, underscored by a beautifully moody soundtrack. And this is really what makes Frozen River worth watching: its atmosphere; the constant sense of doom, which Courtney Hunt managed to sustain from start to finish. And yes, I admit, Hunt's magic worked for me, as for all its predictability - and sometimes implausibility - Frozen River had me in its grip from the very first minute. In a way, Frozen River , although not a genre piece as such, could best be described as Film-Noir-meets-Socio-Drama. Got the picture?

So while Frozen River may not have been the 'indie' I expected - which, careful!, is not meant to be a judgement - it is nevertheless a film I'd recommend you to see. If only for Melissa Leo's outstanding performance of a trailer-trash-woman struggling to keep her head above water. Just awesome!

Melissa Leo - you'd never believe a woman this beautiful could look so common until you see her in Frozen River.

Frozen River is out on DVD.