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A River Runs Through It
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A River Runs Through It More at IMDbPro »

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90 out of 125 people found the following review useful:

Montana only LOOKS!! Serene

10/10
Author: dataconflossmoor from United States
21 October 2005

A stunning realization occurs when some sort of phenomenon takes place!! Be it, firecrackers going off, witnessing a robbery, a hurricane nonchalantly devastating everything in it's path, or, for that matter, any other spectacular occurrence !! In the case of the Maclean Family, however, reveille was something which was no more complex than their day to day lives..Montana in the early twentieth century was an environment which was rough and tumble...The Maclean family was comprised of four people, the father, a minister, who was ideologically driven to raise his family properly. His wife was God fearing, and dutiful. The two boys were, well...BOYS!!.. What else can you say?...Brad Pitt starred in this film before he was really THE!! Brad Pitt, and his acting performance in this film was, to say the least, remarkable!!!.. His brother, Norman, was the cerebral type, he was touched by emotions that were genuine, and motivated by a set of values that Missoula, Montana concurred with!! Paul (Brad Pitt) was a misfit from the offset, and lived on the edge...You would think that Montana in the 1920's had no such thing, yet somehow, gambling, drinking, and violent confrontations, were as much a part of Paul, as was his fly fishing rod!! Fly fishing!! Did I say that? Parenthetically, this was the core of this movie's theme!! The recreation of fly fishing served as the cohesive bond which homogenized the kindred spirits of the Maclean brothers, and to a lesser degree, the father!! I would describe the acting in this film as incredibly believable, and the cinematography went beyond sensational.. Put it this way, anyone who sees this film will want to live in Montana.. Breathtaking filmography of bluer than blue mountains and streams captured the youth and effervescence that the Maclean brothers had for life...Seldom in a film do you witness whereby feelings immediately invoke a dogged tenacity to accomplish whatever it may be that someone wishes to accomplish..The Maclean brothers lived life to the fullest, and for better or worse, the father knew that this was going to be the only way the two of them could become men!!...Robert Redford directs this film, and tells the story of the Maclean's through the perspective of the older brother, Norman...Norman gets offered a position at the University of Chicago at age 26, and marries the woman he will always be in love with...What this film also points out, is that the younger brother, Paul, has attained an accomplishment of his own by being the epitome of a remarkable fly fisherman!! The seedier side of life prevails in the younger brother's existence, and exerts an insidious form of consternation for the Maclean family!! As most human shortcomings go, the Maclean family made light of turbulent waters, (literally) and thus, established unity as a family, by putting necessary blinders on!!!

The end of the movie "River Runs Through It" presents an epigram of life through the eyes of the older brother.. For Norman Maclean, stoicism is a prerequisite to perseverance in his emeritus years!! Such a fate is largely due to the fact that reflecting on his life is tantamount to yearning for people who have passed away! The fond memories of his brother, his wife, his mother, and his father, must now be viewed philosophically!! For Norman, his life has been relegated to stubborn facts that have determined his dubious outlook, and precarious resolve! Something as simple as the statement "This was your life, and that is how you lived it" is a somber recollection of the joy, the sorrow, the regrets, and the love, he gave, as well as was the recipient of!! Best put in the last sermon he heard his father give, his father said "We can completely love someone without completely understanding them".. Whether you agree with what has happened in your life or not, it happened nonetheless! Norman Maclean must come to grips with the fact that his life has been fragmented by misunderstandings! Norman Maclean has become a decrepit octogenarian who is polarized by virtual conclusions to his life!! The murky waters of Montana's picturesque rivers serve as a vicious and desultory finalization to his years on earth!! Without question, the very prolific statement of "what seems complicated is really very simple" purveys a very acrimonious message in this movie...More simply put...The people and places which were important in Norman's life, are now only a bittersweet memory....merely a painfully intellectual rumination of events which are aggravated by the haunted waters of Montana's beautiful streams and rivers...To which, for the entire Maclean family, "all things merge into one and a river runs through it"

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63 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

A Nearly Perfect Film

Author: Brian Spolarich (briansp) from Chelsea, MI
30 January 2004

When I saw previews for this film, I thought "Its a movie about fishing, why would I want to see that?" This is as much of a fishing movie as Hoosiers is about basketball, or Field of Dreams is about baseball.

The story is elegant, the narrative beautiful, the characters deftly drawn. The relationship between the father and two sons is really interesting, and I love the interplay between them. There is great sadness, and also great humour. While nostalgic, I don't think the film ever becomes maudlin, and by the time the film draws to its inevitable close, I feel the same sense of loss and regret every time.

This movie does what films are supposed to do - touch one's heart and mind.

The closing lines, taken from a short story by McLean, are as haunting as they are beautiful:

"But when I am alone in the half light of the canyon all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories. And the sounds of the Big Black Foot 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 the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."

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68 out of 86 people found the following review useful:

This movie is very dear to my own Heart! Movies cannot get better than this!

10/10
Author: Rosemea D.S. MacPherson from US
3 March 1999

I have read the short story by Norman Maclean, and the movie did justice to Norman Maclean's writing. My husband tends to reread it occasionally, and I myself have read it over and scenes of the movie keeps coming to mind. We have videos of many of Redford ‘s movies and we have watched "A River runs through it" many times. Redford is part of the "famdamily" as he is always around. We never get tired of Redford's perception of Norman Maclean writings, and the beauty of Montana. The script reminds me very much of my own upbringing as my father had the same calling as Mr. Maclean's father. According to "A River Runs Through It," "Methodists are Baptists who can read," a line which by the way is not in the short story, but I think that is a funny line! My husband and I are well-read Baptists!

I have heard a movie critic state that the pace of this movie is too slow. I disagree. As one search for inner peace, this is the type of movie that will make you contemplate the beauty of nature in three/four rhythm of the metronome. The photography is outstanding! The acting is great. I love the scene where Norman and Paul as boys talked and wondered whether one could be a fly fisher or a boxer! Then as adult Paul played by Brad Pitt (Se7ven) is the "perfect guy" who needs help with his alcoholism but will not accept it. The same applies to Neal Burns, who uses worms as bait, he also needed help but would not accept the fact that he needed help. The scene where Paul refuses to eat oatmeal and the entire family has to wait an eternity to say grace! Finally after hours, they all kneel around the table to say: "Grace!" and they all leave. But the oatmeal stayed on the plate! That scene where the two love birds and their tattoos on their posteriors! That is funny! The sunburn! The drive back home where Jessie Burns (Emily Lloyd) decides to go via the train line! Beautiful dialogue when Norman proposes to Jessie because he wants her to come to Chicago with him!

Redford himself does a superb job as a narrator. I could not stop myself from comparing Brad to the young Redford (Barefoot in the Park). The nominated Director, Producer, Actor, is a visionary who deserves to be praised for his advancement not only in the cinema in the US but around the world. I am glad to live in nineteen hundred because I have seen the beginning of the black and white television, the movies and all the technology and special effects, to be able to watch videos at home and to live in the same century as Redford because I have had the chance to see his works. Redford needs no special effects to show us the beauty of Montana in this masterpiece. The river to me means that line that separates life from death, memories and realities. Redford shows the hands of the Creator so magnificently and a river runs through it.

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62 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

Pay attention to the themes that never go away

10/10
Author: defdewd from United States
10 February 2006

Have you seen The Graduate? It was hailed as the movie of its generation. But A River Runs Through It is the story about all generations. Long before Dustin Hoffman's character got all wrapped up in the traps of modern suburbia, Norman Maclean and his brother Paul were facing the same crushing pressures of growing up as they tried to find their place in the world. But how could a place like post WW1 Montana be a showcase for the American family, at a time when the Wild West still was not completely gone? Just what has Maclean tapped into that strikes so deeply at who we all are and what we have to go through to find ourselves? As the movie opens, Norman is an old man, flyfishing beside a rushing river, trying to understand the course his own life has taken. The movie is literally a journey up through his own stream of consciousness, against time's current and back to when he was a boy. He and his younger brother Paul were the sons of a Presbyterian minister and devoted mother. The parents fit snugly into their roles. Mom takes care of house and home. Dad does the work of the Lord. The boys ponder what they will be when they grow up. Norm has it narrowed down to a boxer or a minister like his dad. Given the choice, little Paul would be the boxer, since he's told his first choice of pro flyfisherman doesn't even exist. The boys grow up and get into trouble with their pranks, fight to see who is tougher and do the things brothers do, all the while attending church and taking part in all other spiritual matters like flyfishing. They are at similar points in their lives before college. But when Norm returns from his six years at Dartmouth, things are very different. Paul is at the top of his game. Master flyfisherman. Grad of a nearby college and newspaper reporter who knows every cop on the beat and every judge on the bench. Norman is stunningly well educated for his day but has little idea what to do with his life, even as his father grills him about what he intends to do. You're left feeling that at least to Pops, God will call you to your life's work. But you have to stay open and ready to receive it -- all your life. Father has always taken his boys to reflect by the side of the river and contemplate God's eternal words. "Listen," their father urges. It's both Zen and Quakerly. Pretty radical for a stoic clergyman. But with all the beauty and contemplation, and even though the Macleans are truly a God-fearing, scripture-heeding household, how is it that Rev. Maclean's family is unraveling? Paul is true perfection as he fishes the river, but he's feeling the pull of gambling and boozing, while his family doesn't know how to keep him from winding up where he seems to be headed. Mom, Dad and Brother all seem to have the same quiet desperation of not knowing what they should be doing and why they can't seem to help. Pauly just waves it all off with a grin and his irresistible charm. But the junior brother is losing his grip. Norman starts getting his life on track, finding love and career, but Paul continues to slide. The family that loves him watches helplessly. Mother, Father, Brother flounder in their own ways trying to help, but none very effectively. How can a family that loves each other so much be so ill-equipped to handle this? How can someone be so artful and full of grace when out in God's nature, yet be somehow unfit or unwilling to fit into the constructs of society that God's peoples have made for themselves? These are all questions Norman will ponder his entire life. The eternal words beneath the smooth stones of the river forever haunt him, yet keep their secrets. The movie is beautiful to watch. This is certainly God's country, and filming it won an Oscar. Director Robert Redford plays with the story from the book and teases the narration a bit to follow the emotional pattern he's presenting, and it works well. But do go back and read the book, too. You'll see Norman made connections with his old man even deeper than the movie can suggest -- and you'll see the places where the storyteller's very words gurgle and sing right off the page with an exuberance of a river running through it, leading into the unknown.

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51 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Picturesque and Literary: An Ode to the American Wilderness

9/10
Author: AZINDN from United States
22 May 2004

I have seen all the films directed by Robert Redford and appreciated his love of the American people and the land. In A River Runs Through It, Redford displays the lyric romanticism and visual splendor of the high Rocky Mountains of Montana as if he were a 19th century landscape painter of the ilk of Thomas Moran or Albert Bierstadt. This film makes love to the visual and the word with text by author Norman Maclean, and stunning camera work by Phillippe Rousselot (Serpent's Kiss, Reigne Margot).

Redford's cast is perfect. Tom Skerritt is the Rev. MacLean, a man whose methods of education include fly fishing as well as the Bible, Brenda Blythen, the mother, and his sons, Craig Schaffer and Brad Pitt create a family whose interactions reflect the same problems all encounter with growing teenage sons, and later, complex young men. Both Schaffer and Pitt are totally believable as the brothers whose love of fly fishing and each other will tie them together forever. It is the relationships between men, father and sons, brothers, and their women to the outside world that grounds A River Runs Through It to a vein of storytelling that is missing in so many of Hollywood films produced in recent years.

What makes these relationships special however, is the attention Redford gives to the language as spoken in dialogue. This is a literate script, beautiful to hear and unforgettable when coupled with the stunning Montana rivers and mountains. The words and setting are equal to performances by a cast that rises to their material. While the idea of fly fishing may seem an odd device to center a story, it is not so implausible in Redford's directorial hands. Given the material, Redford's elegant ode to a simpler time and life is worth revisiting again and again.

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43 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

The 'It' of the title can be replaced by so many things. A place, a community or life itself.

10/10
Author: heb4_16 from Aberdeen, Scotland
21 August 2004

One of the things about the film that warmed my heart strings was that dry fly fishing was a major part of the scene. I have occasionally carried out my times of dry fly fishing, having tied my own flies, and being accompanied by my brother and my father we spend a day on one river or another seeking to tempt the ever elusive Brown Trout to rise and take the fly that has been offered to them.

When we had occasions like this any differences between us disappeared and any of the pressures of the world melted away to be replaced by the glory of being absorbed in the activity and the surroundings of the place we were in.

This was one of the amazing things that was portrayed to me in the film as the minister and his two sons, Norman and Pauly carried out the ritual. For there is something ritualistic about fly fishing as there is something ritualistic about so many pastimes. You can't just start casting your fishing line and hope for the best. You have to attune yourself to the place you are in, you have to scan the surface of the water considering how it is flowing and where the best point might be to place your fly and, depending on your skill level, you might even get your fly to land there long enough for a fish to take note of it and strike. The 'Art of Fly-fishing' was directed and represented so well that they themselves can be classified as artists.

The title for the film could not be more aptly chosen, for the river did in fact run through the life of father and two sons. This film however spreads itself broader than the family and community in Montana, by the the Blackfoot river, where the film is played out. It has the capacity to draw you in, to enthrall you, to capture you, as the history of the family, community and period is unfolded. The Story told is not just a family history, but a history of Life. What may be classified as a 'River of Life'

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40 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

An eye opening inspiration

10/10
Author: flyokeefe from Southern California
27 January 2006

The combination of reading the Novella and viewing this film has inspired my wife and I to new levels. Recently I was pondering a statement made by the artist Thomas Kinkade in one of his inspirational books; He states: "You and I were not designed to breathe the fetid air of five o'clock traffic. Nor do I think God had banal television programs, media hype, worthless purchases, and soul pollution in mind when he created the universe..." I hadn't seen "A river runs through it" in a couple of years, but after pondering Kinkade's statement something drew me to watch the film with a spiritual eye. I watched it and saw a whole new world to the film and it inspired me to read the book (a must read). I have always been frustrated in Southern California but somehow got caught up in its materialistic society. The film really puts into perspective of how we should really experience God's creations. A combination of Macleans story and my desire to move back to the Northwest has driven me to move to Montana. I want my future kids to be able to rome the landscape, go fly-fishing with me, ride horses into nothing but open land and serene lakes set in the mountainside. A place where you seldom worry about crime. I look around SoCal and all I see is shopping malls, rude snarling people in their Mercedez Bens, miles of vehicles on congested freeways, gangs, racial turmoil on the verge of violent eruption, and everyone skeptical of each others intentions.

Anyway the movie is very inspiring with brilliant acting and a deep story about the fragile connections of loved ones. There is a lot of deep thinking in this film. The scenery is worth seeing alone and actually helps relieve tension. You should finish this film relaxed yet full of insights to your own life. It takes a compassionate, intelligent, and spiritual person to really grasp the meaning. If you don't understand the art of cinema and how a director achieves his goals through dialogue, tone, light, colour, scenery, camera angles/movement, etc. Then this film is probably not for the crowd that thinks "The Fast and the Furious" is the greatest film. Granted it was entertaining but shallow.

The bottom line: This film helps to realize that life is not about how much money you have or what things you posses. Rather it is about your relationships with family and friends and the experiences you share together. QUALITY NOT QAUNTITY

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27 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A marvelous film!

10/10
Author: emurray-2 from Los Angeles
20 December 2002

Upon seeing this film once again it appeared infinitely superior to me this time than the previous times I have viewed it. The acting is stunningly wonderful. The characters are very clearly drawn. Brad Pitt is simply superb as the errant son who rebels. The other actors and actresses are equally fine in every respect. Robert Redford creates a wonderful period piece from the days of speakeasies of the 1920s. The scenery is incredibly beautiful of the mountains and streams of western Montana. All in all, this is one of the finest films made in the 1990s.

You must see this movie!

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

A good movie

8/10
Author: rbverhoef (rbverhoef@hotmail.com) from The Hague, Netherlands
25 June 2003

In a little town in Montana two brothers grow up. One of them is Norman (Craig Sheffer), the other is Paul (Brad Pitt). Their father is Reverend Maclean and they grow up with his lessons that has to do with religion, and the lessons of fly-fishing. In this movie fly-fishing represents life, a little.

The story is good and keeps your attention although there are some moments you need a little action. Probably the movie has this moments because it is not really about the events that happen, but about the message. Some things do happen though. Norman goes to Dartmouth to study. After six years he returns and gets involved with a nice girl named Jessie (Emily Lloyd) and he is invited to teach in Chicago. Paul has become a reporter and is known as the "fishing reporter". He is famous and it seems he has a nice life, but he drinks a little too much and gambles too much.

The movie is very well directed, it has a nice score and all of the actors are good. The most beautiful thing in this movie is the cinematography. The mountains, the woods and the river all look very beautiful. If the movie was only made for these things it was good enough to watch. Fortunately there is more.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

a very poignant film

9/10
Author: mattmatthew808 from United States
31 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

as a habit i always like to read through the 'hated it' reviews of any given movie. especially one that i'd want to comment on. and it's not so much a point-counterpoint sorta deal; i just like to see what people say on the flipside.

however, i do want to address one thing. many people that hated it called it, to paraphrase, 'beautiful, but shallow,' some even going so far as to say that norm's desire yet inability to help his brother was a mundane plot, at best.

i'd like to disagree.

as a brother of a sibling who has a similar dysfunction, i can relate. daily, you see them abuse themselves, knowing only that their current path will inevitably lead them to self-destruction. and it's not about the specifics of what they did when; how or why paul decided to take up gambling and associating with questionable folks; it's really more how they are wired. on one hand, they are veritable geniuses, and on the other, painfully self-destructive (it's a lot like people like howard hughes — the same forces which drive them are the same forces which tear them apart) and all the while you see this, you know this, and what's worse, you realize you can't do a damn thing about it.

for norman maclean, a river runs through it was probably a way to find an answer to why the tragedy had to occur, and who was to blame. in the end, no one is, and often, there is no why. but it takes a great deal of personal anguish to truly come to this realization. sometimes it takes a lifetime. and sometimes it never comes at all.

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