A River Runs Through It (1992)
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This is among my favorite films. The photography is moving, unforgettable, etched in my mind. The writing passages are almost as memorable. The story pits two brothers growing up in small-town Montana, trying to break from an overly religious father. One rebels more than the other, and you know tragedy is not far. Though their views lead them to drift apart, their lives stay intertwined. It's a film about family bonds, capturing the moments, and the injustices, the inanities of life. It reminds me that life is cruel, but there are moments, however fleeting, that make it worthwhile.
Since the film release 25 years ago I spent seven years in and around Montana. Each time I hiked through the abundant forests of the state I felt like the luckiest person in the world. This beautiful film captures the magic I felt. The film audience is immersed in the splendor and wonder of Montana's waterfalls, wily trout, sparkling sunlight, towering mountains and forests, and river sounds, currents and rhythms.
There is great depth, richness and wonder to this true story. This applies to both the natural and human elements that, as Norman maintains, merge into one. "Stories of life are more like rivers than books," he says. Souls are restored and imagination is stirred in listening to the river. This is the best film Robert Redford has been a part of. Brad Pitt begins his rise to stardom here, and the other actors are just as good. Norman writes about Missoula and the Blackfoot River, yet the film was shot in and around Bozeman, a similar, nearby and equally beautiful setting.
Robert Redford directed this family drama, and as always, you can see his love for nature in every scene. He's also the narrator in the movie, so if you think you recognize the voice in the beginning of the movie, you're right. Redford specializes in directing beautiful nature scenes and capturing emotional turmoil within a family. A River Runs Through It is very pretty to watch, but as much as I love Robert Redford, it's not my favorite of his films. Don't throw anything at me, but I'm not really a Brad Pitt fan, so I found myself rooting for Tom Skerrit more often than not.
Watch the preview to see if it's your style. I like The Horse Whisperer better, but if you're one of the millions of people who drool over Brad Pitt, you're going to want to rent this one alongside Legend of the Falls.
It tells the story set in the early 20th century of a Montana family composed of two brothers different in every way but, though different and incomprehensible one to the other, loving each other nonetheless despite those differences. I urge you to watch it if you can. In my opinion it is a beautiful film worthy of thought.
There is a poem within the film that is quoted. "Ode, Imitations of Immortality" written by William Wordsworth (1779-1850) which speaks to the drama of the film. It happens to be one of my favorite poems that gives credence and reality to life.
Norman Maclean the writer of the semi-autobiographical book "A River Runs Through It" writes two of the most revelatory soliloquies of the father Reverend Maclean in one of his sermons after the death of his youngest son and one of the surviving son Norman's summary at the end of the film pictured as an aged man fishing in the river both he and his sons had experienced in their youth. They say:
Reverend: "Each one of us 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 to 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 is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding."
Norman: "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 the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs --his father and brother --. I am haunted by waters."
We, as I understand the film, go through life only to see at the end, if we live long enough, most those whom we knew and loved die. How do we give credence to this if all that we ever knew and loved leaves us and in time we, too, leave the earth? Our works, who we are, and who we loved, I think the film says, still live as eventually every living thing passes out of this earth but the reality of one's existence lives on as Norman says "in the basement of time" and a river runs through it carrying the words spoken indelible in the sands of time.
Ode, Intimations of Immortality (in pertinent part)
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound! 175
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright 180
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; 185
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death, 190
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
This is one of my most favourite movies of all times, nice story.
This movie may not have won a mittful of awards, but it has been recommended by the International Society of Sleep Disorder Orderlies for its powerful sedative effects.
Brad Pitt plays Paul, the ne'er-do-well brother of Norman, played by Craig Sheffer. Their father is a God-fearing-but-fish-tormenting preacher played by Tom Skerritt. The plot seems to be some sort of allegory.
For those who do not know what an allegory is, I shall explain:
When you have an adverse reaction to something - be it weeds, dust, pollen, pet dander, insect bites, or boring movies - then you are said to be suffering from an allegory. Treatment for such is a strong antihistamine which will likely knock you completely off your toes. Luckily, in the case of A River Runs Through It, the antihistamine is built right into the movie! You won't even notice your allegory!
However, as any exalted reviewer would, I must criticize at least one intention of this film. Redford likely wants the viewer to hanker for a day of fly-fishing. Rather, I found that I might welcome spending some time with my ne'er-do-well brother watching paint dry.
River runs through it is a film I most definitely recommend. It will make you smile and feel many more different types of emotions. Sit down and watch a tale of two brothers who share a special bond of fly- fishing on the big Blackfoot river where " all things merge into one and a river runs through it"
One scene that stood out for me was like " witnessing perfection". I am haunted by waters.
This films looks at a time gone by. Early turn of the century Americana (or a decade or so after) in the Midwest, and specifically Montana. The cinematography is fairly well crafted, and the actors and on set people all do their jobs.
But where's the story?
The copy on the DVD box says this is a character study. Okay, but what about this character makes him interesting? The fact that he's a minister's son? That he dates women others might not?
In the midst of a very picturesque location with lots of period props and costumes, there is absolutely nothing here to hold your attention.
Does he engage in courtship with these women? Did he get his cues from another character who had loose morals? We don't really know, nor are we given any real insight, other than he's degenerating until he meets his end. And even then we don't get insight as to why it happened, though we can sort of piece things together.
It's a film that looks like a masterpiece, but is ultimately pretty devoid of any feeling other than looking like it should have been more than it is.
This is one of those films that catapulted Brad Pitt to stardom. In fact, it may be the very film that did, since it was not "Thelma and Louise" and he was fairly established by the time "Interview with the Vampire" came out. So, good job, Brad! This is just a nice drama about two brothers in Montana. You know, nothing too exciting, but just a nicely scripted, well-acted story. And having Robert Redford narrate and direct is a nice touch. He really knows how to craft a story, making even the mundane worth watching.
Tom Skerritt is excellent as the stern minister dad. He comes to see nature as part of his religious training and emphasizes the sport of fly fishing to his young charges.
Time periods seem to go very quickly in the film, such as the older boy attending Dartmouth.
The usually feisty Brenda Blethyn has a rather benign part as the mother of the two boys. Besides her, I would have liked to have seen more of a character study of Jesse's brother, smitten with Hollywood and a drunk as well. Did he show homosexual tendencies?
The nostalgic ending was terrific as we returned to nature to exhibit our values.
With the Robert Redford narration and the long sweeping story, this feels like a novel turned into a movie. The good aspect is that it has the appearance of weight. The less good aspect is that it is meditative. I guess it's fitting for a fly fishing movie. Redford keeps casting the lines but rarely gets a good bite. It is in the casting of the lines where this movie exists. It's not particularly interested in having an exciting time catching fish. Even the big climax is left off screen. There is some beautiful cinematography especially with the photogenic Brad Pitt. It's a long slow beautiful movie.
My brother and I grew up in Missoula, had some rowdy times (like millions of other brothers), I went off to college, he stayed home, I came back to Missoula and met a girl, then brother was killed in a barroom brawl (which is not depicted). And we went fly fishing a lot. End of story.
And how do you make a film spanning several decades in Montana without a single winter scene? It might as well be Florida, with mountains. The attempt to make fly fishing some sort of poetic symbol of life in general falls is just dumb and doesn't salvage this quotidian story at all.
The theme is something that movies can get very wrong, very easily, in book to movie. adaptations. Especially when dealing with a theme such as the one in this book, which is confusing to the most advanced reader. The film makers were treading on thin ice, when they took up this part of the story. But, to their credit, they don't just portray the theme accurately, they make it easier to understand. With a story such as this one, with such a narrative and underlying meaning in it's characters. The theme is not just being waved right in your face, and screaming that it's the theme. Your have to search for it, and even then it's very hard to understand. It one of those themes where you read the whole book, and came find all the little details, and put them all together, and your starting at complete nonsense. The movie decides to uncork the nonsense for you, while still not shoving it in your face, so obnoxiously, as films tend to do with their themes. The actors also certainly know what their young to portray their theme. With their clear use of meaning in their lines, and just how subtlety the can lay on the emotion. It's clear the message in A River Runs Though It isn't one that's going away any time soon. So on the whole, even if the movie did have a few things that seem to crop up in movies are less than appetizing, (seeing a girl from acrossed to room at a party, and falling in love with her, the strict parent, the reckless decision as youth, that could have killed them, but they turn out okay anyway). However the movie was a successful adaption of the book it is named after. It's characters are for the most part, well adapted, and it's theme is clear. Little more can be asked of a movie adaptation of a book. This movie is one that is sure to please, fans of the classic short story, and true movie lovers a like. Although if your a person who only likes big studio movies, who favors big explosions, among other unrealistically big things on the screen at all times, I'd leave this one out of your collection. But if your like so many other classic movie lovers out there, this is a movie for you, just try and see passed all the obsessive fly fishing.
It's clear the novel meant something for someone, as there weren't many times where the movie strayed from the book, only at a few points it adds new things to the story. The changes it does make generally aren't very important, in one such case, Norm having already known Jesse in the book is turned into a brief subplot where he meets and builds a relationship with her. It's not as in other films, where they take the name, and make an entirely unrelated story out of it.
The film looks exactly how the book described. The setting of the story feels looks how it was described in the novel, feeling like that Montana the characters talked about. There isn't excessive special effects, everything for the most part looks natural, and convincing. It's not as if it's a film needed many effects, but it's nice to see how the film wasn't covered in unneeded effects just to make it look more interesting, at the expense of story, like other films.
Perhaps the most important thing the movie has going for it is the acting. Starring Craig Scheffer as Norm, and Brad Pitt as his brother Paul, these actors portray the two biggest characters rather accurately. Along with Tom Skerritt as their reverend father, the actors look the part, and make convincing enough brothers. Together, they make the film more compelling, being able to pull off Norm's concerned, wiser personality, and Paul's tough guy personality pretty well.
Overall, the film is well acted, fairly well paced, and good looking. It doesn't make us suffer through the long descriptions of fly fishing that the novel did, instead maintaining fly fishing's importance to the story without doing that. The most unusual thing about this film is that it's superior to the source novel. Any film accomplishing such a feat deserves much respect.
Maybe it was only because I like books that don't put me to sleep, or maybe I just really don't like imagining the smell of fish and sweat throughout 90 or so pages. This slowly improved in the last 10 pages when there was an emotional bond between Paul,norm and their dad. That was my favorite part of the book but I may have been a bit biased because I was excited that the book was almost over. When I started the movie I was shocked at how many new scenes there were, but this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, I think it made y movie a bit better. It was nice to watch Norm and Paul grow up and see their bond grow.
It was a very nice touch to hear norms voice narrate the whole movie but I was very upset that once Paul died and we got to the end where it's Norm fishing by him self and he's 80 years old, that his voice still sounded like he was 30 I believe that they should have aged the voice with the character or they should have had his voice be old through out the whole movie and they should have had him telling it through,Emory, but with that said it just my opinion and I'm sure most people weren't as bothered by this small fact as I was.
I think that the scenery in the movie was very beautiful and it truly captured the essence of the book as for the connection to nature. The river was exactly how I imagined it would be and it was just a flawless setting choice. However The good movie choices won't make the book any better. I believe that Paul and Norman's characters where adapted perfectly. Paul is cute, fun loving and oddly protective. While norm is reserved mature and loving. The actors where flawless and I agree with the casting 95 percent. I just believe that Jessie was too uptight and unlovable in the movie. I'm not sure if it was the director or the actors fault but its the only person I disagreed with.
Allison Pendleton 9/30/13
In some ways books can make people very bored and wonder why people would want to read this book and why is it such a famous book. In this cause in the novel A river runs though it it is so true! The novel the River Runs Though it was written by Norman Maclean in 1976. The book takes place in the small town in Montana. Where flying fishing was almost as important than their fathers preaching. Where fly fishing in the book took over every thing that was explaining about the boys Paul and Norman. The story was about a preachers family that made up of two boys Paul and Norman and the book was based on their life and struggles. The most important thing that came out of reading the book was seeing the film that came out of the fictional book the River Runs through It. For the movie it brought the book a better understanding and a light to the end of a very boring tunnel of facts and talk about nature.
The film the River Runs Though it was a shot of excitement to the novel the River Runs Though it by being able to catch and keep the audience all the way though the movie. In the film the RiverRuns though it the book came to life we were able to understand the really drama that was coming out of Paul and Norman. Aside from the novel in the movie were where able to focus and understand the certain major events in the story instead of getting lost in the setting in the book. For example when Paul had the accident with the rabbit it was hard to understand because it was in a section in the book were all Norman McLean was talking about was the setting and the fly fishing. To the people in your lit and film the book was made in too lots of confusion were we had to keep double checking with each other for the key events that happened in the novel because we keep on getting lost or bored of what we were reading. The film surprised everyone we all though that the movie was going to be as boring as the book but the film was fantastic and it cleared up all the confusion that the book brought to the surface. The adaption was an success and totally worth the money to make the movie . The movie was able to show us the story of the boys and make it more interesting than the book did.
As the book was so boring the only good thing was that Norman Maclean made his Characters his number one thing and detailed these people to the exact point. In the film the characters where exactly like the book described and made them seem more real and believable. The cast in the River Runs Through it were casted appropriately. the character Paul was seen as a prodigy son with a very bad drinking and gamboling problem. Paul was also very built in both the book and the movie. Norman the main character was the better Planed and caring person and son.Norman was always taking care of Paul through out the whole story. Norman was the narrator of the story. Norman and Paul's father was both in the movie and the book a stern religious person. He taught this kids to respect the nature around them and the importance of fly fishing. All of the characters were casted greatly because it made the story easier to understand and more believable. The characters also made the book more interesting and the movie fantastic.
The setting and location was appropriate in the film because they made the movie in Montana were the book took place. For example they used the setting to create emotion to the scene and make people more into what is happening. They also use the setting in the film to create a more interesting and beautiful background to the story. They also used the setting to show how important nature was in the film The River Runs Through It. Most importantly the director used the setting to help us understand the boys and what they loved the most in their lives and how much things can change in matter of a few days or months. The setting in the film was able to show us how beautiful the nature was but in the movie it did not over power the characters stories like it did in the novel.
Unless you love reading about a lot of nature and fishing the book The River Runs Through It is not for you. The movie on the other hand can be more interesting to the people who do not like fly fishing because in the movie they focus on the story of the two boys instead of the scenery. In fact the movie is actually better than the book because people have said that the movie is easier to understand. So here is to Norman Maclean best movie sellers The River Runs Through It.
The film A River Runs Through It successfully adapted Norman Maclean's novel, "A River Runs Through It" by capturing the true beauty in the fly fishing, "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing" (1, Maclean), and the emotional struggles that Paul and Norman were going through. Paul, with his drinking and gambling problem, and Norman, with his struggle between doing what he wants, or what is expected of him. Not to mention, their parent's emotional struggles, worrying about Paul and what kind of trouble he's going to get himself into.
The setting in this movie is extremely important. Throughout the whole book you have pictures of Paul and Norm fly fishing, the River, Neal when he passes out in the sun, of all the fights and no other place than the Rocky Mountains in Montana could have captured what was really going on. It really puts you in the 19th century and you finally have a visual of the endless words, in his novel.
Redford's cast is nothing short of perfection. Tom Skerritt is Rev. MacLean, whose methods of education include fly fishing and the Bible, putting them on the same shelf. Brenda Blythen, the mother, and her sons, Craig Schaffer and Brad Pitt create a family who reflect the same problems all families encounter with growing teenage sons, and later on, young men. Both Schaffer and Pitt are believable as brothers with their love of fly fishing and each other, they'll always be tied together. The relationships between men, father and sons, brother and brother, man and wife, is what really ties this story together, and Redford wouldn't have been able to capture their emotions and relationships if he had any other cast.
If you didn't enjoy the book because of endless description and no dialogue, you really have to watch the movie. This needs to be filed under "Saving the Novel" section in movies. It tells the story better than the book and when it's over, you're sitting there in awe, wondering how something so boring, could be turned into something so captivating.