Directed by Robert Redford, Written by Norman Maclean (story) and Richard Friedenberg, 123 minutes, Rated PG.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Just out on Blu-ray disc, Robert Redford’s “A River Runs Through It” is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
Reflecting the nostalgia and wholesomeness of Rockwell’s work, the film details American life in the first half of 20th century, and it does so poetically and quietly. Redford’s subtle directing, Philippe Rousselot's stunning camera work and the cast’s disciplined performances make for a peaceful visit to a simpler time. Connecting the bonds of family, nature and time with the serenity of fly fishing, the film teaches a lesson in every scene with precision and purpose.
“A River Runs Through It” follows the Maclean family as their two sons, Norman and Paul, come of age. However, despite their close upbringing and relationship, the boys walk divergent paths.
The first born son and our narrator, Norman (Craig Sheffer), takes the straight and narrow. While “River” briefly shows us his childhood, the film doesn’t really get underway until Norman returns from Dartmouth College and looks for his next endeavor. Uncertain of his calling, he spends the film in quiet contemplation, deciding his next move and meeting his first love Jessie (Emily Lloyd).
On the other hand, Norman’s brother, Paul (Brad Pitt), takes a more dangerous route. More thickheaded than Norman, Paul’s stubbornness and smooth-talking persona wins him a job as a reporter for a local newspaper and thus a reckless lifestyle. At the paper, he carves out a bit of fame for himself -- though, in the eyes of the local bookies, he’s already a star. Paul’s problems are many, but as Norman points out, with a fishing lure, he’s an artist.
Redford succeeds at matching his thoughtful story to his contemplative image. Philippe Rousselot's Oscar-winning photography creates an aura of nostalgia that surrounds the serene Montana plains. Likewise, Norman’s poetic narration add to the dream-like tone of the film, while the cast’s complex performances turn that dream into a reality.
“A River Runs Through It” is a slow film. But during its quiet lurch, the film gives the viewer a chance to reflect and relate. Redford puts their life to film and does so with a gracefulness most directors only dream of.