This is the stealth element in "Frozen River" -- the invisible, almost entirely conceptual barrier between Lila and Ray echoes the one between Lila and Ray and their human cargo.
What makes them different is academic when compared to what makes them similar: They are both poor working women struggling to raise children on their own. Even Lila's belief that Ray is somehow above the law for being white is poignant in light of Ray's socioeconomic position in life.
Tom McCarthy follows "The Station Agent" with the poignant "The Visitor," which follows a lonely and depressed economics professor named Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) as he arrives in his seldom-used New York apartment only to find a young couple living there. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is a young Syrian musician, his girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira), is a Senegalese jewelry-maker and they have been duped into believing they are subletting the apartment by an acquaintance.
Both in the country illegally, Tarek and Zainab are terrified of any situation that might lead to a confrontation with the law. But Tarek and Walter form an unlikely friendship, and when Tarek is arrested for jumping a stuck subway turnstile, Walter does his best to help.
"The Visitor" hinges on a sudden reversal involving Walter and Tarek's, mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass). Although Tarek and Mouna (who were denied political asylum when they first arrived in the country after the politically motivated death of Tarek's journalist father) as well as Zainab suffer the greatest loss, Walter too is left bereft and alone.
Another film that illustrates how borders and national conflicts can be internalized and transported to other worlds. In Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor's "Strangers," an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman living in Paris meet by chance in Berlin during the World Cup finals and fall in love. The war between Israel and Lebanon that begins shortly thereafter sparks a generations-old conflict that threatens their relationship.
Even living far away from the site of the conflict -- in a country that would just as soon not have them -- Eyal and Rana cannot initially escape the borders imposed on their personal lives by their nationalities.