Thursday, June 19, 2008

Essential Cinema - 33

A River Runs Through It

Craig Sheffer
Brad Pitt
Tom Skerritt
Brenda Blethyn
Emily Lloyd

Robert Redford

Norman Maclean (story)
Richard Friedenberg (screenplay)

Philippe Rousselot

The story of two brothers is told in narrative flashback. The film is set in Montana at the turn of the century. It explores the bonds that tie their family together and the differences that drive them apart against the backdrop of a beautiful landscape.

Understanding what binds us to one another and understanding how seemingly simple things are the glue that cement our relationships to one another even as we chart different courses in our lives.

This is a film that I had seen before and I wanted to watch it again to see if it was still as good as I remembered it. It is a good film, although it is very subtle and introspective. This was one of Robert Redford's first attempts at movie making from behind the camera. He does not appear on screen but does lend his voice as the narrator.

Without giving too much away, this is a film about fly fishing. Not the art of fishing itself, but how a common, shared experience brings people together regardless of how much they grow apart. In this film, the two brothers grow into men of different temperaments and ideals. However, both of them share the same life long passion that was taught to them by their father.

This passion is the unseen thread that holds the family together. Many families have this type of thread but it can take different forms. The mother driving her daughter to figure-skating practice week after week which eventually stretches into years. The father and son that tinker on their 57 Chevy for decades in the garage. The things that seem meaningless at first, but when looked back upon, create a continuity that makes us who we are at our core.

This film is exceptional in many ways. As a period piece, it makes the viewer long to live in rural Montana before World War I. Tom Skerritt as the father and the young Brad Pitt as his younger son give exceptional performances. I found the older son played by Craig Sheffer to be a bit emotionless and repressed. His love affair with the home town girl appears a bit forced at times and does not appear to move the plot forward much.

In the end, the eldest son stands along in the river where so much was learned and you can sense his anguish at what he has lost during the course of his life. The final lines of the film pretty much sum it up. "In the end, all things run together into one, and a river runs through it. And if you listen to the waters you can hear their voices.......I am haunted by waters." All in all, a beautiful film that makes us pause at the end and think about what is really important.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which can be viewed here.

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database entry for this film.

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