Head on over to my DVD review of “A River Runs Through It” (Deluxe Edition) at eyecravedvd.com or read on for the movie review.
“A river runs through it” is the Academy Award winning screen adaptation (1992, Best Cinematography) of Norman Maclean’s memoir directed by Robert Redford. Starring Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, and Tom Skerritt in an American family drama set in the 1930s in a beautifully shot rural Montana. The father, a Presbyterian minister, played by Tom Skerritt, raises two sons of opposite nature; the one reserved the other rebellious. The former, Norman Maclean, is played by Craig Sheffer and the latter, Paul, by Brad Pitt. The story covers the life and history of the family and as such the movie is heavily focused on dialogue intertwined with the breathtakingly beautiful Montana landscape.
A friend of mine raised his eyebrows at the fly fishing cover and said that he’s not interested in a movie about fly fishing. He could not be more wrong. This is not exactly a movie about fly fishing, yet Rev. Maclean would probably strongly protest. It is about life and it is about art and what you master in your life or how you master your own life, it is about family. Paul was an artist and it took Norman a lifetime to understand this, tragically for Paul it was too late by then.
We accompany the two brothers from youth to adulthood, relive their lives, their hopes and dreams, all the ups and downs in one rich story arc that comes back in the end where it all started, to the Blackfoot river and fly fishing and as stated by the film’s narrator “In our family there was no clear line bewteen religion and fly fishing”.
For the two unlike brothers, fly fishing is the bond that they have and their father teaches them well, yet not well enough since he himself is burdened with the flaw of not understanding those you love and thus not being able to help them until it is too late. For Rev. Maclean, otherwise emotionally handicapped, fly fishing was the way to reach out to his family but it did not suffice and in his last sermon he realizes this.
Both sons leave the parental home at some point and go and make a living on their own. Norman even leaves Montana and becomes a professor in the end. Paul, writing for a local newspaper, never leaves Montana. He also is the better fly fishermen of the two and has a rhythm of his own. Unfortunately for Paul, this “rhythm” will be the end of him and while everyone seems to realize this, no one is able to help him and Paul is unable to accept help when offered. Paul, the ladies man, drinks, gambles and gets into brawls and ends up in jail for an overnight stay more than once. Norman usually comes to rescue but ultimately also fails to really help his brother.
When the film’s narrator (Norman in his 70s) in the end so poignantly states in his final monologue: “Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it”, he delivers the perfect closure for a wonderful piece of art and as Rev. Maclean says, “all good things come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”
A poetic tale of religion, family and fly fishing.