Frozen River

When Quentin Tarantino describes something as “the most exciting thriller I've seen all year”, you're expecting whipcrack dialogue, cartoon levels of violence and more swearing than in an episode of Gordon Ramsay's F Word.

But Frozen River is the very opposite – at times it's as slow-moving as the iced-up river at its heart and barely seems to qualify as a thriller at all.

Maybe it's because the two central characters (and writer/director) are women, maybe it's because of the bleak circumstances in which they find themselves, maybe it's because the action takes place on the snow-blanketed border between Quebec and New York State…

The beginning of the film finds Ray abandoned by the father of her two sons, a compulsive gambler who has disappeared with the money she has saved as a down payment on her dream home.

Broke and desperate, she sets off into the nearby Mohawk reservation to look for him and there finds Lila, herself an abandoned mother, who introduces her to a scheme to ease her financial difficulties – people smuggling.

The reservation straddles the border between Canada and the United States and the border (the frozen St Lawrence river) exists only on a map – a fact that enables Lila in particular to argue that what she is doing is not even wrong.

The film is really about borders – physical borders as well as the ones we construct like the borders between countries, between races and between right and wrong.

And particularly it's about breaking down those borders as Ray and Lila's initially frosty relationship thaws almost imperceptibly over their shared motherhood and sense of exclusion.

A really well-acted film that washes over you rather than carries you away on a tide of emotion – but none the worse for that.