A River Runs Through It:
With worn-soled shoes of another era, Robert Redford steps along the river banks and through the town streets and follows the lives of the Maclean family, in this film adaptation of Norman Maclean’s novella, “A River Runs Through It."
Winner of the 1993 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot- “The Brave One;” “Big Fish;” “Interview with the Vampire”) and nominated for two more (Best Original Score and Best Screenplay from an original medium) – “A River Runs Through It” offers little in the way of special effects and action sequences, but provides mature and insightful messages about life and familial relationships.
Norman Maclean (Craig Scheffer) and his brother Paul (Brad Pitt) grow up in the stoic home of Rev. and Mrs. Maclean (Tom Skerritt and Brenda Blethyn). While Norman follows the world of poetry and literature and solid citizenry, Paul entrenches himself in gambling and drinking and fly fishing. Though Norman makes solid, patient attempts to help Paul, the two brothers remain at a painful distance from one another.
It is through the dimming eyes of his elderly body that Norman looks back on and describes his life in Missoula, Montana. He embellishes nothing. Rather, as with the care of stringing a fly for fly fishing, Norman soberly recounts the beautiful and the tragic from his youth. It is the last lines of the movie (narrated by Robert Redford) that I am left with a numbness which transcends this physical world. Crafted with a methodical touch, “A River Runs Through It” enters quietly and exits the same; however, its message resounds with profundity on the issue of helping those who need help the most, but reject it always (and, I cannot help but see the connection between that and our situation with God- how often are we rejecting His love and help in our lives?)
Just as the opening lines state, fly fishing and religion are interwoven in this piece and they must be viewed as artistic endeavors- both draw one nearer to God (according to Rev. Maclean). So, fly fishing and religiosity are predominant symbols that speak to a higher order of things. But, the river serves as this movie’s primary symbol. It contains the words of God. It contains life and beauty. It provides solace. Within it ebbs the voices of all those who have gone before Norman (all those “he has loved and never understood”) and it unsettles him.
Oddly though, the movie (and the novella) promotes a Darwinian view of the world. I say odd, because Darwinism is diametrically opposed to even the existence of God, let alone his hand in our lives.
I can see why you would not enjoy this movie: slowly paced, quiet and sad; yet, it is still one of my favorite movies of all time, and I recommend it to all.