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A River Runs Through It (1992) Poster

Quotes

[last lines]

Older Norman: [narrating] Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

Rev. Maclean: Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.

Norman Maclean: My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But ah my foes, and oh my friends - it gives a lovely light.

Jessie Burns: If he came back next summer, would you try and help him?

Norman Maclean: If you wanted me to.

Jessie Burns: Well, he's not coming back.

Norman Maclean: Well, at least, he's got friends out there.

Jessie Burns: Who Ronald Coleman? Why is it the people who need the most help... won't take it?

Norman Maclean: I don't know, Jess.

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Older Norman: [narrating] My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.

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Paul Maclean: [to Norman] Oh, I'll never leave Montana, brother.

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Older Norman: [narrating] As time passed, my father struggled for more to hold on to, asking me again and again: had I told him everything. And finally I said to him, "maybe all I know about Paul is that he was a fine fisherman." "You know more than that," my father said; "he was beautiful." And that was the last time we spoke of my brother's death.

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Older Norman: [narrating] The Burns family run a general store in a one store town and still managed to do badly. They were Methodists, a denomination my father referred to as Baptists who could read.

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Norman Maclean: The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.

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Norman Maclean: Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song. I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms.

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Older Norman: And I knew just as surely, just as clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.

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Older Norman: [narrating] In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

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Norman Maclean: So, what do you think?

Jessie Burns: What do I think? I think it's the berries!

Norman Maclean: You do?

Jessie Burns: Yeah, to get away, Chicago. God, it's haven!

Norman Maclean: Have you ever been?

Jessie Burns: No, not anywhere. Helena. Congratulations, Norman!

Norman Maclean: Truth is, I'm not sure I want to leave.

Jessie Burns: Montana? Why? It'll always be here.

Norman Maclean: Not Montana.

Jessie Burns: Then what? WHAT?

Norman Maclean: I'm not sure I want to leave you.

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Older Norman: [narrating] My father looked at me for a long time, just looked at me and this was the last he and I ever said to me about Paul's death. Indirectly though, he was present in many of our conversations. Once for instance, my father asked me a series of questions that suddenly make me wonder if I understood even my father, whom I felt closer to than any man I have ever known. "You like to tell true stories?" he asked and I answered, "Yes, I like to tell stories that are true." Then he asked, After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don't you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why. It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.

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Paul Maclean: As I live and breathe.

Rawhide: [hungover] Buster, here wants to fish.

Norman Maclean: You're late, Neal.

Neal Burns: Yeah, yeah, I didn't get in until late.

Paul Maclean: Well, I didn't get in at all, but I was here.

Norman Maclean: Neil, Paul. Paul, Neil.

Paul Maclean: Neal, in Montana, there's three thing we're never late for: church, work and fishing.

Neal Burns: [introducing Rawhide] Anywho this is...

Norman Maclean: [in uncaring unison] We've met.

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Norman Maclean: Couldn't you find him?

Paul Maclean: The hell with him.

Norman Maclean: Well, I thought we were supposed to help him.

Paul Maclean: How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?

Norman Maclean: By taking him fishing.

Paul Maclean: He doesn't like fishing. He doesn't like Montana and he sure as hell doesn't like me.

Norman Maclean: Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.

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Rev. Maclean: [walking away from the river] The Lord has blessed us all today... It's just that he has been particularly good to me.

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Norman Maclean: I'm in deep trouble.

Paul Maclean: Yep. Want me to come over and protect you?

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Paul Maclean: Hello, Jess.

Jessie Burns: Hey, Paul.

Paul Maclean: How's your brother?

Jessie Burns: You both left him alone.

Paul Maclean: Well, I'm sorry about that. That was my fault.

Jessie Burns: Well, you're not forgiven.

Paul Maclean: Was Norman forgiven?

Jessie Burns: Norman's not funny.

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Older Norman: [narrating] That was the only time we fought. Perhaps we wondered after which one of us was tougher. But if boyhood questions aren't answered before a certain point, they can't be raised again. So we returned to being gracious to one another, as the church well suggested.

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[first lines]

Older Norman: [narrating] Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me, "Norman, you like to write stories." And I said "Yes, I do." Then he said, "Someday, when you're ready you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why."

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Mr. Sweeney: [delivering letter from Chicago, quotes old song] Chicken in the car. Car won't go. That's how you spell Chicago. Ha he he.

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See also

Trivia | Goofs | Crazy Credits | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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