Box art for Frozen River

Frozen River


Strapped for money and having been deserted by her husband, working class Ray (Melissa Leo), teams up with Lila (Misty Upham) to smuggle illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence River from Canada to the U.S. in the trunk of a Dodge Spirit.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 15
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
5 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
0 out of 5
3 out of 5

Superb indie drama features great acting, smart script.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film, which earned actress Melissa Leo an Oscar nomination for Best Actress as well as a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, is a serious, strong, and well-made drama loaded with topics worthy of serious discussion, as well as some harsh language. Parents also need to know that the film is not shy about depicting illegal activity and working-class poverty.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the complex circumstances and characters of the film. What drives Ray to become a human smuggler? What lies behind Lila's decision and actions? Families can also talk about the economic challenges faced by the lead characters -- why is it that this kind of real-world challenge is so infrequently seen in films? Finally, families can also talk about the privilege Ray has even as a poor working mother -- as Lila notes, the cops won't pull her over, "... 'cause you're white. ..."

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 26
    see all Frozen River reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: It moves and it heals, finding hints of redemption in the jagged face of life.

- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Friday, August 29, 2008


- Andrew O'Hehir,, Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fresh: Made with uncommon skill and assurance, the film never succumbs to rank sentimentality, but it manages to get at the nuances of human relationships.

- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, Thursday, August 28, 2008

Audience Reviews

3 stars

Melissa Leo's role as a trailer park single mum in Frozen River ranked her amongst esteemed company the likes of Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep. This gripping drama about risk, desperation and survival is an undiscovered gem and highly recommended.

- deano, Sunday, July 26, 2009

4 stars

a truer film will be hard to find. Every scene breathes real, real people in real situations trying to survive when given a bad hand. No overglorified speaches, and the only redemption comes from within. The film is gritty and true in so many different ways as a woman whose gambling husband has robbed her and her two children and then taken a powder, leading her into trafficking illegals across the canadian border in order to make ends meet. Great performances abound, from her fifteen year old son who want to quit school and get a job, to the denizens of the Mohawk reservation, exhibiting a stoicism and wisdom that is simply "there" and not glorified. The culture clash adds an additional dimension in what is a wonderful charactor study.

- paulsandberg, Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4 stars

An absorbing although bleak story concerning a desperate single mom struggling to make it after her husband deserts her and their two kids. In order to pay the bills she stumbles upon an opportunity to smuggle people in from Canada to the United States, where a frozen river means no border police and limited attention. This film wouldn't be nearly as good without Melissa Leo's extraordinary quietly intense portrayal of a woman whose world is collapsing and desperation is rearing its ugly head. It's never fun to watch and there is one little flaw with the story telling, but for the most part this is gripping stuff that doesn't for one minute feel artificial or that the actors in the film are acting. Leo is just so good in this movie - her weathered face and tired reactions capture all the stress and hurt her character has gone through in her life so far.

- fb619846742, Saturday, January 23, 2010