Film Review: Film Frozen River

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¶ … film Frozen River

Courtney Hunt's 2008 motion picture Frozen River puts across a series of diverse messages, with audiences being required to either interpret it or take everything as granted, given that both of these options are likely to generate intense feelings. Melissa Leo is the protagonist-Ray Eddy- a woman caught between the harshness related to raising a family and the opportunity to get rich over night. As the storyline progresses, one can observe that many elements in the film can be explained differently, given that some can attribute a denotative meaning to a particular scene, object, sound, or individual while others can consider that the respective element to have a connotative sense.

This motion picture is not essentially meant to highlight a particular character, emphasis the feeling of adventure, or display criminals as they get rich by exploiting people. Its actual purpose is to raise questions regarding what causes some people to commit illegalities, the risk they undergo when they do so, and the fact that one has no other option than to hope that crime pays in certain circumstances. One can best explain Ray and Lila's choice in becoming smugglers through looking at how their maternal instincts come to guide their behavior. Watching this movie involves understanding what the characters feel and supporting their actions. This is a low budget film, but the director (who was also the writer) did not let this feature bring down the general feeling one gets consequent to seeing the motion picture. In spite of the fact that some actors in it are relatively new to the film industry, they manage to display impressive performances.

From the first scenes, viewers are presented the image of Ray Eddy as she struggles to apply mascara while crying. This scene is supported by the desolate landscape from the northern region of Upstate New York, an allusion to the fact that this film deals with sorrowful moments in people's lives. Ray Eddy works as a clerk and hopes to raise enough money for her family to move into a larger mobile home. Instead of improving her life however she discovers that conditions have worsened, with her gambling-addict husband running away with the family's savings and car. When all seems lost, Eddy comes across her car, but instead of her husband behind the wheel, she observes that it is driven by Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a local Mohawk Native American. Consequent to becoming acquainted with the circumstances in which Lila came to drive Eddy's car and that the Native American is also aware of the risk related to being a single mother, the two women somewhat reluctantly join forces in illegally transporting Chinese immigrants across the Canada-U.S. border in exchange for money.

As if Eddy's life was not already in a critical stage, her oldest son contributes to making her living difficult by expressing his need to help his mother by taking a job, even with the fact that he would have to drop out of school and no longer care for his brother from that position. Ray is further influenced in engaging in illegal activities by this event, and, along with Lila, she travels from a Native American reserve in the U.S. To an Indian reserve in Canada, using these locations to make the smuggling process simpler. The illegal crossings have the two women go through several episodes during which each of them is influenced in considering their lives, the smuggling activity, and the risk they put themselves as well as the people they are getting across the border to. The film's action reaches an apogee at the moment when Ray gets her ear shot consequent to having a quarrel with a strip-bar manager. Panicking because of the situation, the woman catches the attention on police officers in Canada and decides that the only way to bring the illegal immigrants she's transporting into the U.S. is to go across a frozen river. Matters become even worse as one of the car's wheels breaks through the ice and the two smugglers along with the illegal immigrants take shelter in an Indian reserve. Given that the police are still on their tracks, Ray decides that she has to take responsibility for her actions and leaves Lila in charge of her family and with the money necessary for the first deposit for the mobile home.

Lila and Ray are practically business partners, with the conditions in which they work making their jobs different from the rest. Even with that, one can consider that the two women have come to exploit the little resources they have because they have no alternative to raising their families. Life changes people, and, depending on the opportunities they come across, some might be inclined to consider that illegalities are not as dangerous as they seem. Fate had been cruel to the two women, bringing them to the point where they were already in danger of losing every dream that they had. While Ray had two sons and a place to live in, Lila's baby had been stolen, making her even more desperate than Ray. Ray was to a certain degree privileged in comparison to Lila, even with the fact that she also suffered as a result of having little to no money, with her sons having to eat popcorn and orange juice.

A winter landscape might not seem depressing, especially given that it is located in northern Upstate New York, an area considered by most to be populated and rather flourishing. However, in the context of Frozen River, the landscape shows the isolation that people have to subject themselves to. Physical beauty is obviously not of great importance when considering the lives of people living in or near the Mohawk reservation. From a denotative perspective, frozen scenery might actually seem relaxing and enjoyable. In contrast, when a connotative point-of-view is employed in analyzing the fact that the surroundings of Eddy's trailer are lonely and ice-cold, it becomes obvious that life has been very cruel with her family. The carousel in Ray's lawn is also a reference to the woman's life. Whereas it is frozen and unusable in the first part of the movie, T.J. makes it work to the end, showing how their life improved.

The scene where Ray accepts to befriend Lila in trafficking people across the border does not come as a shock to viewers, given that almost anyone can understand her thinking at that time. A Crime can seem reasonable when it is done for a noble purpose. Even though the general public is likely to agree that there is no reason whatsoever to break the law, matters change when conditions are unfavorable and when there is no other way out for the people involved. Some might consider Lila to be a bona-fide criminal, given that she stole Ray's car and that she was previously involved in smuggling people across the border. However, upon analyzing the Mohawk Indian's life, it becomes clear that she was influenced in becoming a criminal.

The main characters in the film are marginalized by society, thus the reason for which they lose any interest in putting across moral behavior. With almost everyone around them condemning them and sharing no interest in providing them with assistance, Ray and Lila realize that they have to risk the little that they have in order to have a chance to accomplish their dreams. Audiences are initially influenced in disliking the two women, even with the fact that some might feel compassion when considering the conditions each of them is living in. Ray's unwillingness to accept her situation makes it even harder for her to be appreciated by the public, given that she appears to be partly responsible for her position. She is the mother of two, she lives in a trailer, and she is married to a gambling-addict. Most would consider that a normal woman would do anything in her power to avoid such a situation. However, as the movie progresses, people can observe Ray's dedication to improve her life and her family's life. Even though she hopes to get promoted, her manager actually threatens to fire her. It is initially difficult to determine if Ray's character was influenced by her background or if she is actually predisposed to living a criminal life. When she meets Lila, both women are suspicious regarding working with each-other. The first scenes showing Lila present her as a thief and a racist, as she expresses lack of interest in working with a "white," since she apparently doesn't appreciate such a relationship. Lila's discriminatory nature is again shown at the time when she and Ray abandon a Pakistani couple's luggage fearing that it might contain explosives. However, matters escalate when the luggage proves to contain a baby, influencing Lila in wanting to abandon the smuggling business.

As the two start a smuggling business, the public is probable to feel empathy and understanding. They gradually start to complete each-other, both physically and through their characters.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Film Frozen River.  (2011, January 30).  Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/film-frozen-river/3612

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"Film Frozen River."  Essaytown.com.  January 30, 2011.  Accessed June 27, 2019.
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