"Struggle and Sacrifice"
What You Need To Know:
FROZEN RIVER is well made, though at times the plot is predictable. Though rated R for foul language, it is a moral movie at heart. The state troopers catch up with Ray and Lila, and the Mohawk tribal police deal with a credit card scam. The smuggling is never glorified. When caught, Ray has an opportunity to escape. However, Ray returns and surrenders to the police, entrusting Lila to care for her kids until she is out of jail. This sacrifice, doing what’s right though difficult, is the real heart of the movie.
(BBB, LL, V, S, D, MM) Very strong moral worldview, with a strong acknowledgement of God the Creator in one scene; 11 obscenities and one profanity; light violence during threat with a gun, a character is taken hostage and when woman tosses bag out of car and bag contains a baby, but the baby is okay; no sexual content, but there is a clothed exotic dancer in one scene; woman appears in underwear, but not suggestively; no alcohol use; smoking; and, illegal immigration, lying, taking a character hostage, threatening with gun, and credit card fraud.
FROZEN RIVER is the story of Ray, an abandoned mother who in order to raise money for a new trailer home begins to smuggle immigrants from Canada across a frozen river that runs through Mohawk tribal land into the United States. She begins this illegal activity when forced at gunpoint by Lila, a Mohawk woman she encounters while trying to find her husband. Though Ray knows its wrong, she and Lila form a smuggling partnership. As Ray befriends Lila, she learns that Lila has a young child who was taken away by the father’s mother. They form an uneasy friendship as they struggle to provide for their families.
At home, Ray’s son T.J. wants to help the family’s situation and scams a credit card number from an elderly lady. He then exchanges that number for a Christmas present for his little brother. He tries to fix frozen pipes, but only damages the trailer, forcing Ray to make one more illegal run.
FROZEN RIVER is well made, though at times the plot is predictable. The acting is understated and performances by Melissa Leo and Misty Upham as Ray and Lila are superb. Though rated R for foul language, it is a moral movie at heart. The state troopers catch up with Ray and Lila, and the Mohawk tribal police deal with TJ for the credit card scam. The smuggling is never glorified. When caught, Ray has an opportunity to escape and let Lila be arrested, which Lila was willing to do. However, Ray returns and surrenders to the police, entrusting Lila to care for her kids until she is out of jail. This sacrifice, doing what’s right though difficult, is the real heart of the movie.
There is much racial tension in this town. Lila repeatedly says to Ray, “Remember you are white,” to explain how why she won’t get stopped by the police. Other Indian characters emphasize that they “don’t work with whites.” Ray is okay smuggling Chinese, but doesn’t want to smuggle a couple from Pakistan, fearing that they are terrorists. These racial references depict a society with racial problems and a society where unequal treatment of some races and ethnicities as compared to whites exists.
At the same time, the writers brilliantly (but implicitly) suggest that holding fast to racial/ethnic biases and stereotypes can lead to deadly consequences. For instance, fearing a bomb, Ray tosses the Pakistan couple’s duffel bag out the window onto the frozen river, only to later learn that the couples newborn infant was in the bag. They return for the infant and discover that the baby is still alive. Ray credits Lila with saving the baby, but Lila says that it wasn’t her, it was the Creator who saved the baby.
This is a gripping drama, well told against the background of racial tension and illegal smuggling. While discernment is needed, media-wise viewers may find this an engaging story.