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Movie Pick: Frozen River

Movie Pick: Frozen River

Is there such a thing as a “female sensibility” in film? Certainly, there are male filmmakers and writers who are gifted at representing women on the screen.

Lila (Misty Upham) and Ray (Melissa Leo) form an unlikely alliance as border smugglers

Is there such a thing as a “female sensibility” in film? Certainly, there are male filmmakers and writers who are gifted at representing women on the screen. (Pedro Almodóvar is an oft-cited example.) It’s the prerogative of the artist to represent humanity through different identities, to embody those of a different gender, age, race, class, etc., but is there something that only a woman can bring to the table?

I asked myself this question as I was watching Courtney Hunt’s “Frozen River” at the opening of New Directors/New Films last spring. I felt that the story was undeniably estrogen-inspired, beyond the fact that there are two female leads. The film follows Lila, a Mohawk widow whose child is taken from her, and Ray, a single mother struggling to keep her family afloat. Out of necessity, the two partner in a smuggling operation that involves transporting illegal immigrants over a frozen river across the US/Canadian border. Ultimately, one makes a sacrifice for the other, despite their antagonistic relationship.

I don’t think that all films by and about women evoke the distinctly female sensibility that I felt here.

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