Frozen River

Rated 2.0

Deserted by her husband and desperate to get by, a working-class mother in rural New York (Melissa Leo) resorts to smuggling illegal immigrants over the border from Quebec through a nearby Mohawk reservation. In writer-director Courtney Hunt’s first film, the icy river isn’t the only thing that doesn’t flow; Hunt paces the movie in jittery fits and starts, overcasting it with a dogged bleakness that soon grows dreary, and she muddles the dialogue and action just as it is (or should be) reaching a climax. Leo’s performance radiates a gritty integrity; other performances in the tiny cast range from serviceable to earnestly amateurish. The movie is snowbound and quiet, with a huddled, head-down quality that tries to pass for proletarian realism but merely makes the characters looked pinched and threadbare.