Director: Courtney Hunt

Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham

The Buzz: Nominated in Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay categories

The Run: Won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival

Frozen River

Of Bread And Boundary

There is always something so absorbing while watching independent films. May be it’s because of the very tag of “independent film” alone or may be because they are so honest and true to their tag. I’d like to choose option 2 and Frozen River tells you why. Debutant Courtney Hunt has struck gold here and let’s hope she does not fade away into oblivion to like so many one-hit women directors. 

Watching our Hollywood heroes romantically break the law and make a mockery of “the system” for years, Frozen River comes as a surprise. Here we have people so much engulfed by the arms of the law that they never think about the authoritarian nature of the law and the government. Abiding by the law is a part of their morals and comes as a natural instinct. There is no cribbing about what the government has done to them but a genuine desire to survive without deliberately doing “wrong things”. And this is what brings the characters closer to us and evokes a genuine concern for them. The great American dream, that all the immigrants that the film shows sell their bodies for, isn’t much of a dream when you are in it. Like the spiritual enlightenment that foreigners seek in India being a puzzle to us residents, the great American dream is a big joke for the protagonist when she says “they pay so much, to get here?”. There is no limelight on the statement here. There is no pretense of exposing reality. And the film’s triumph lies, here, in accepting the social structure as it is and carrying on life within this structure.

Melissa Leo may be called this year’s Gena Rowlands and reminds us of the veteran too. Her performance is so independent of the camera, the geography and the macrocosm of the society. She is pitted against heavyweights and favorites ranging from Meryl Streep to Kate Winslet at the Oscars. But she can rest assured considering that her performance is one of the best by any actress in recent years.