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A River Runs Through It (film)

A film directed by Robert Redford.

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Life is not a work of art

  • May 12, 2000
Pros: Beautiful scenery

Cons: a little slow, actors not well rounded

Craig Sheffer - Norman MacLean
Brad Pitt - Paul MacLean
Tom Skerritt - Reverend MacLean
Robert Redford - Narrator

Based somewhat on the autobiographical novella of Norman MacLean, this story is set in the 20's in the Montana countryside and more importantly, on the river. The symbolism of the river with its' peace and tranquility may be lost on some, but the premise of Reverend MacLean, somewhat harsh and stoic otherwise, sharing his love of fly fishing with his sons, becomes the crux of the story.

Ruling with a heavy hand at home, MacLean becomes a soft and approachable person when wading thigh deep in the current, fishing pole in hand and platitudes in his heart. Paul is his rebellious son, Norman responsible. After completing school, Norman goes off to college and Paul remains on the homestead and becomes a reporter. Paul, however, has a bad boy side - gambling, ‘hoing, drinking. You know this will become his downfall but little will stop him.

Although Norman has a tentative hold on his life, his father still pressures him to decide what he is gong to do with his life. Often overlooking Paul's nefarious ways, Norman and his father continue their heated arguments about Norman's failure to make a solid commitment on his future. The three men return to the river, during which time many sentiments are exchanged, and Paul, who has always hated fishing, makes the catch of a lifetime.

Eventually Paul is murdered after having some gambling problems. Norman is faced with the horror of approaching his parents and telling them of Paul's death. Devastated, Reverend MacLean and his wife are never able to overcome the grief of the loss of their precious and precarious son. Norman becomes a college professor and marries his childhood sweetheart.

The movie often is slow and muddling along, but the overlying story line is worth the watching. Viewing the interaction of this family - the father often strict and unbending, the mother usually hiding in the background, slightly wishy-washy. Sheffer was not powerful enough to pull this story together leaving you to rely on Pitt and Skerritt to give the story a little meat. Neither one of these actors gave their full potential, leaving you slightly empty at the end of the movie. To me the redeeming quality of the movie was Redford's narration of the story.


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More A River Runs Through It (film) reviews
review by . April 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A River Runs Through It tells the quite extraordinary story of two boys, Norman Maclean (Craig Sheffer) and Paul Maclean (Brad Pritt). They are growing up in the 1920s with a very strict father who is a pastor, Rev. Maclean (Tom Skerritt). Their father only teaches them about three things in life, the Bible, school and fly fishing. Paul is more of the rebellious son that has to be watched very closely, while Norman is responsible, and has the look of someone that will one day be a good man. So …
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About this movie


Fly-fishing figures prominently in this poignant tale of two brothers growing up in Montana in the early 20th century under the stern rule of their minister father. While both boys rebel, Norman (Craig Sheffer) channels his rebellion into writing, but Paul (Brad Pitt) descends onto a slippery path of self-destruction. The beautiful scenery of Montana is used to full effect with the awesome cinematography of Philippe Rousselot. Directed by Robert Redford, this adaptation of Norman Maclean's classic autobiography also features Tom Skerritt and Brenda Blethyn as the Reverend and Mrs. Maclean.
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Director: Robert Redford
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 1992
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (November 29, 2005)
Runtime: 2hr 4min
Studio: Columbia Tristar
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