Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) has saved up enough (working at her cashier job) to make the last payment on her dream home--the insulated double-wide trailer. We learn in the opening scene, her gambler husband has found the thousands she kept hidden from him in her car's glove compartment. He's gone; she surmises he's on his way to Atlantic City by now. Ray and her two kids are screwed. Christmas is days away, she has no money or gifts for the kids, her second car is missing and her husband is gone.
She goes searching for the car and finds it outside a bingo parlor. As she's inside looking for her husband, Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham) drives off with it. Ray gives chase and she ends up at Lila's trailer on the Mohawk Indian Reservation. Lila says she found it (keys left in it) parked at the bus station. Ray tries tying the second car to her car to tow it home, but the rope busts. Lila bamboozles Ray into driving to see a friend who'd buy the car for a good price. The 2K price-tag lures Ray, who's now desperate for cash. The two women go to see him. Soon, Ray is complicit in human trafficking.
Ray's 15 year-old TJ (Charlie McDermott) knows way too much about his parents acrimony and the family's financial turmoil. He's more babysitter than brother to little Ricky (James Reilly) who only wants Hot Wheels race track and his dad back for Christmas.
The storyline is rich, compelling and full of suspense. Both are single mothers trying to make enough to support their kids. They've been forced into their dire situations by the abandonment of men, although under different circumstances. As their tenuous relationship builds, it is beautifully and believably depicted. The St. Charles River and the cold, snowy environment become characters is this complex film. The female-penned screenplay is thoughtful and although movie is fast-moving, there's enough time given to character development. Frozen River has the feminine touch evident in how the complicated issues are resolved. Deservedly, the movie and actors have been nominated and received numerous awards.
Writer and Director: Courtney Hunt
Run time: 97 minutes