The stories of women are so disparaged — or worse, ignored — in our culture unless they have something to do with pleasing men, but here’s one that demands to be seen. The first feature from writer-director Courtney Hunt — and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, among other festival awards — this is a frank and unrefined tale of women doing what it takes to survive, particularly when dominant, male-centered cultures have abandoned them. Two days before Christmas, Ray Eddy (the extraordinary Melissa Leo, who first made us take notice of her on Homicide: Life on the Street) finds herself coping with the sudden absence of her gambler husband, who has absconded with the money she’s been carefully hoarding to upgrade her little family — which includes her sons, 5 and 15 — to a double-wide trailer. When she encounters Mohawk Native Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham, also riveting) — who’s been deserted, in a way, by her husband, too, and then afterward by Mohawk values that esteem sons over daughters — the two fall into a moneymaking scheme to ferry illegal immigrants by car across the deep-frozen St. Lawrence River that creates the U.S./Canadian border in northern New York State. Fascinating is how Hunt’s story straddles moralities, gender motivations, and ideas of poverty and despair in such a way that you’re not sure, by the end, what’s “right” and what isn’t.
Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the daily digest email and get links to all the day’s new reviews and other posts.
shop to support Flick Filosopher
Independent film criticism needs your support to survive. I receive a small commission when you purchase almost anything at iTunes (globally) and at Amazon (US, Canada, UK):