I never would have seen Frozen River had it not been nominated for an Academy Award in 2008. I’ve seen it only once (TV Stevie sees every nominated film he can, and I happened to catch this one with him), but the images and messages have stayed with me. The film was nominated for Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It won several other awards, mostly for Best Actress.
I never realized the underlying story until I overheard a TV program my husband was watching about female directors. Frozen River was mentioned as being a film about motherhood. When I heard that, all the images came crystal clear.
Mexico isn’t the only point of entry for undocumented immigrants. When the St. Lawrence River freezes, it becomes a smuggler’s route between New York State and Ontario/Quebec–especially since the Akwesasne nation (St. Regis Mohawk tribal land) straddles the river between the two other countries.
Two single mothers–one white, one Native American–both desperately poor, want better lives for their children. They live on the New York side of the Frozen River. This unlikely pair team up with disastrous consequences. There is a happy ending, just not in the traditional sense. The film ends on a note of hope. Yes, their partnership brought dire consequences, but in the end, the same partnership will help them create the better lives they want for their children.
The movie is dark. Grim. Yet as a mother, I identify with their anguish. We will do anything for our children.