Wednesday 28 February 2007

A River Runs Through It (1992)

In Missoula, MT, back at the turn of the century, the Revd Maclean was a mild mannered but very firm Presbyterian minister who spent as much time fly fishing as teaching the word of God, and he took both equally seriously. To him both are truth and art and serious stuff. He also brings up two sons in the early part of the century, Norman and Paul. Norman tells our story, which is a simply told autobiographical one, and he's played as an adult by Craig Sheffer who is technically the lead. His wild younger brother is a young Brad Pitt, making himself noticed but still not yet famous.

The film looks gorgeous, as it should having won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, and it sounds good too, as it should given that it was nominated for Best Music too. However what really matters is the story and the simplicity with which it's told. It seems to carry an honest authenticity and my impression is that anyone born in a similar place at a similar time will feel a major kinship with it. Of course I wasn't born anywhere near Montana or anywhen near the depression era and so I don't feel any kinship at all. I couldn't find any way to empathise with the characters so I was restricted into merely enjoying watching them.

They play their parts well, not just Sheffer and Pitt but Tom Skerritt as the minister and Brenda Blethyn as his wife. Nobody else really gets a look in except the Big Blackfoot river and the fly fishing lines, until Emily Lloyd shows up and she's fine too. They look good and they're believable, but how much do I care? I'm sure I'd enjoy sitting out on a big river bank and enjoy communing with nature, just as I know I do elsewhere, but I don't grok the concept of fishing, especially as a metaphor for life. Perhaps because of the lack of connection, none of it really means anything so it becomes a means to pass time.

There are similarities to Legends of the Fall: a family out in the gorgeous wild Montana countryside, way back when, with a respectable brother and a wild brother played by Brad Pitt. Yet while there wasn't particularly anything for me to empathise with their either, it engaged me. This one felt dry and passive in comparison. There's probably absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I ended up bored anyway. It's a very subtle autobiographical story, but 'very subtle' could easily equate to less positive adjectives.

There's a great scene late on where Brad Pitt catches a large fish in spectacular manner. It's so obviously a setpiece and it's just as obviously a pinnacle, yet to me it's just a guy catching a fish. Very nicely, I'll grant you, but it's just a guy catching a fish. And to me, so's the film.

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