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Where the Rivers Flow North

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Jay Craven

An old Vermont logdriver and his Native American wife stubbornly hold onto their land during the Depression as the government tries to buy them out. This independent film was widely celebrated by critics. Based on a novel by Howard Frank Mosher.

Director: Jay Craven
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 1993
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about Where the Rivers Flow North

Where the Rivers Flow North 1993

  • Oct 30, 2003
Pros: ......

Cons: ......

The Bottom Line: __________

Before you even get into the story and find out what is going on the beautiful scenery strikes you. This movie was filmed partially in New Hampshire with the balance in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, and St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The story centers around a single man, Noel Lord, whose family has been in the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, since before time. His companion, Bangor, is a wonderful Native American woman with spirit, outspoken ideas and love. Their opponents are the ‘big guy’ moguls that want to flood this peaceful valley and build one of the largest hydroelectric dams to date. Their head mucky muck is Clayton Farnsworth, and he WILL have his way.

If the story sounds familiar, it’s been done a hundred different ways in a hundred different movies. Several things set this one apart. First and foremost is Bangor, played by Tantoo Cardinal. She is a metis, part Cree and part Chippewa Indian. The first thing you have to accomplish is the cadence of her speaking, otherwise you loose a lot of really funny stuff from her. This is a woman that speaks her mind and you will love her homey comments to ‘Mr. Man’. One assumes theirs is a common law marriage from conversations later in the movie.

Ms. Cardinal is quite the accomplished actress, appearing in movies and TV. She has received many awards including best actress from American Indian Film Festival for this production.

Another thing that sets this story apart is Noel Lord, played by Rip Torn. Large and powerful yet soft spoken, he is deeply committed to his land and family history. Torn gives a beautiful portrayal in this movie as a determined ex-logger who is just happy to live out his days in peace. However, it bodes you well to remember not to turn your back on him.

Finally, the scenery was just incredible. Shadows and light, sunsets and sunrises, fall foliage and deep evergreens. In addition, interior shots were clear and crisp, just really great cinematography by Paul Ryan

Where The Rivers Flow North was written by Howard Frank Mosher & Don Bredes and directed by Jay Craven. It also starred Michael J. Fox as the conniving Clayton Farnsworth. He must have really loved this role because he got to smoke heavily during the entire movie and I know he said that was the hardest part of his TV roles because he was such a heavy smoker. He carried a snappy little moustache in the movie and his part was limited but decent.

The movie also won the Nova Award for most promising producer for Jay Craven & Bess O’Brien. All soundtrack work was written and performed by The Horseflies but don’t let the name scare you off. The work seemed to hold mostly with light Native American themes and a lot of instrumental work. Actually it was quite good, as was the entire movie.

I am always pleased when I find a rare gem like this movie. I also wonder at the selection for awards given out. Torn and Cardinal both should have received some mention, certainly Cardinal in a supporting role. The movie didn’t stand a chance against the likes of Schindlers List or The Piano, released the same year, but I think Cardinal certainly was equal to Rosie Perez for heavens sake who won for Fearless. It’s a damn shame when good stable talent is ignored.

As the movie came to a conclusion it was one of those that made you want just a bit more and even Diane told me to hit the extras button on the DVD. Unfortunately all that offered was a biography section for Rip Torn and Michael J. Fox, completely ignored Tantoo Cardinal – another shame.

On reflection I was satisfied with the ending of the movie but it was still one of those that left you wanting just one more scene, just a little bit more of these quirky characters lives.



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