This is an extremely small film in scope and budget, but it is made into a huge film by the simple, restrained performance by Best Actress Oscar nominee Melissa Leo. She is an actress who I was not familiar with before this film even though she had previously acted in films like "21 Grams" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada". This is a brave performance with her looking all haggard and world weary, but it is actually one of the strongest performances by a female in film last year.
Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) and her sons T.J. (Charlie McDermott – Sex Drive, The Village) and Ricky (James Reilly – first film) are waiting anxiously for the delivery of their new house. They live in Massena, New York – just over the Canadian-U.S. border – right near a native reserve.
Because her gambling addict of a husband has taken off with the money they've saved for the house, Ray doesn't have the balloon payment, so the take back the first half of the house. Desperate to move out of their trailer home but not knowing how to raise the money on her own to do it. Ray works part-time at the Yankee Dollar, so she doesn't make much money.
Ray discovers that a Mohawk girl, Lila (Misty Upham – Skins, Expiration Date), has her husband's car. She tells Ray that her husband got on a bus to travel to a gambling casino. Lila says she knows someone who will buy her husband's car for more than it is worth. This guy need cars with big trunks as he is a smuggler. The smugglers are on the other side of the border and they drive the cars across a frozen lake to avoid the border.
Lila grabs a gun and forces Ray to bring drugs across the ice and over the border to the drop off point. She splits the money with Ray. Desperate for money to pay for her new house Ray starts smuggling with Lila. They even smuggle illegals over the border and each trip becomes more and more dangerous.
An interesting look at a part of the United States that we don't often get to see. Upper State New York and the Native Reserves have not often been the subject of Hollywood films. Now, this is most certainly not a Hollywood film. It is the exact polar opposite. We get a glimpse of how certain sectors of the female population really rely on men for financial support. It is just a reality they can do very little about. The character Ray will do anything to make a better life for her family. For her the American Dream is just a fantasy – not attainable. She, however, doesn't quit; she doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word. Ray takes all the risk necessary in order to achieve what she needs to.
During her journey she realizes that she is not the worst off, that some have it worse than her. She is poor and has a husband with a problem, but realizes that some have nothing. Both her and Lila come to the realization that they have some preconceived notions about the other. They each learn lessons, about empathy, how to be friends – of a sorts.
This is not a film with a happy ending. It is not the point. The film's goal is portray reality and not 'tell a story'.
-Previews of Blu-ray Disc is High Definition, Waltz with Bashir, 12, Adoration, I've Loved You So Long, Rachel Getting Married, Synecdoche, New York, Elegy, and The Lodger