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The River Within (2009)

3:08 | Trailer
Jason returns home to study for the bar exam, but instead finds that his purpose in life was not what he'd originally thought.



(story and screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jason (as Josh Lauri)
Craig Luttrell ...
Craig Morris ...
Pastor David
Mr. Blayton
Lydia Ditto ...
Natalie Smith ...
Sarah Hill ...
Amanda the Waitress
Staci Harmon ...
Alli's Mom
Andrew Webb ...
Harold Williams ...
Mr. Collins


Jason returns home to get away while he studies for the upcoming bar exam. After visiting his oldest friend, a "coulda-been-girlfriend" who is now engaged, and a pushy preacher, his easygoing summer becomes filled with unwanted drama. Over the few months he's there, he begins to question what life is about, and what is his purpose in it? Written by Barley

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One man's journey back will change his life forever. See more »


Drama | Family



Official Sites:



Release Date:

11 September 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The River  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$40,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(theatrical and DVD) | (premiere cut)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The camera and grip crew had to walk with the actors in 100+ degree weather to shoot the field walk/talk scene. There were 20+ takes that had to be filmed. All of that footage was cut from the final film. See more »


When David opens the door to his house to let Jason in, you can see the boom mic in the glass reflection. See more »


Jason: Well, we could use another adult to help out with youth.
Paul: Eh, the church and I don't really mix all that well. I was thinking more along the lines of giving you a hand at the farm.
Jason: I'll keep that in mind... if I ever decide to become a farmer.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Kerri is the final credit. This is for director Zac Heath's wife. See more »


Talk of the Town
Written by Robert Choy
Performed by Big Phony
Courtesy of Robert Choy
See more »

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User Reviews

This is Christianity at its very core: deep, refreshing and vital.
18 November 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The River Within" lays out a thick, rich plot filled with the everyday events that define our lives, from the joy of a simple kickball game to the panic of an unplanned pregnancy. Yet the film is not about any of those singular events. It is about the fabric of lives intersecting on a journey of Christian discovery.

Josh, a 20-something student, has returned home to northern Arkansas to study for his bar exam. He is on track to become a lawyer even though he doesn't have the passion for it. He is welcomed by old friends who all ask, "What are you doing here?" Josh is wondering the same thing. Adrift and conflicted, he stumbles into helping as a youth pastor, all the while sending the wrong message to his former girlfriend, Layla, who is now engaged. After a rough beginning, Josh finds he has a gift for working with young people. Not only does the church's youth group benefit from his friendship, but Josh also begins to feel a sense of worth, a sense of purpose.

"The River Within" is driven by characters who are presented as real people with genuine attributes and realistic faults. The cast consists of unpolished actors who haven't been layered with the Hollywood patina that defines almost all commercial films. These actors - most of whom were not paid for their work in the project - give startling and refreshing performances that feel absolutely real. Audiences might want to apologize for eavesdropping into these private lives.

The production budget for the film was less than $40,000, about the same price as a new mini van with a few bells and whistles. In terms of return for the dollars spent, writer- director Heath has created a very moving and powerful film. While the film's unwavering Christian message is the foundation for the movie, the mechanics and the details of the message are stripped away to focus on how faith in God affects the daily lives of these characters. This is Christianity at its very core: deep, refreshing and vital.

And then there is the river - at once a life force that nourishes both the body and the soul but is capable of great destruction, too. The director keeps returning to the metaphor of the river to signal a balance between respect, admiration, power and mystery. A baptism scene at the river cements the metaphor and allows members of the audience to compare their own inner river with that offered by belief in the film's message.

"The River Within" offers a unique opportunity for audiences to see a fine writer-director at the start of his career. Heath deserves a bigger budget to tell his stories. Thinking audiences deserve a film like "The River Within." It is a fine film that deserves attention.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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