A River Runs Through It

"Very Good"

A River Runs Through It Review


Of the six movies Robert Redford has directed to date, A River Runs Through It is his second best, following behind the searing, unforgettable Ordinary People. A specialist in bringing books to life as movies, Redford has a knack for finding what matters in the text and making sure it ends up on screen.

That's vital here because Norman Maclean, on whose novella-length memoir the film is based, was a writer of exceptional grace and economy. This is a simple story that must be told the way he wrote it, and Redford delivers, even using excerpts as the narration he reads. Smart move, Bob.

Rural Montana of the '20s and '30s is a beautiful and unspoiled place where young Norman (Craig Sheffer) and his brother Paul (Brad Pitt) grow up under the watchful and stern eyes of their father, the town Reverend (Tom Skerritt), and mother (Brenda Blethyn). Norman is the serious son, Paul the more happy-go-lucky adventurer. Both enjoy fly fishing with Dad, but Paul is a natural, and the camera lovingly caresses the sun-kissed Paul as he casts his line in slow motion over and over and over again. It's Pitt at his charismatic peak. (Note how much he looks like a young Redford.)

But as the young men age, the world interferes with their paradise. While Norman finds a love match in the vivacious Jessie Burns (Emily Lloyd), which is no small trick in the middle of nowhere, Paul is easily distracted by the babes and booze available in nearby towns, indulging in increasingly reckless behavior that has both Norman and the Reverend angry and concerned.

Most of the film is about Paul's downward spiral and Norman's gallant but ultimately futile efforts to save him. Paul will disappear for a spell only to turn up in jail. Norman will always bail him out. Dad will deliver a lecture while Mom nervously dries dishes. Paul will just give a Redfordesque smile and squint and say, more or less, "Aw, shucks." But through it all the three men have their fishing, the one constant in their life, and they return again and again to the river and its healing rhythms.

A River Runs Through It is part travelogue and part tragedy, and running right through the middle of it, of course, is the river, a painfully obvious yet still touching metaphor for time's inexorable flow. The impact does build, and no one will mock you if you find yourself in floods of tears as Redford reads Maclean's final haunting words and gives us one final sparkling river vista. It's beautiful, it's sentimental, it's nostalgic, it's the West. Just let it wash over you.



A River Runs Through It

Facts and Figures

Run time: 123 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th October 1992

Box Office Worldwide: $43.4M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Paul Maclean, as Norman Maclean, as Rev. Maclean, as Mrs. Maclean, as Mrs. Burns, Stephen Shellen as Neal Burns, Vann Gravage as Young Paul, as Rawhide, as Mabel, as Jessie Burns, William Hootkins as Murphy

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.