Blog Directory CineVerse: Fishing for answers

Fishing for answers

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It" is graced with so much visual beauty, courtesy of its Academy Award-winning cinematography, that can be easy to overlook some of the film's other virtues. We attempted to name all that we could last night at CineVerse. Here's our roundup:

What did you find memorable, interesting, or surprising about this film?

  • It’s a throwback picture that harkens back to a bygone, simpler time and style of life. It remains a fairly simple tale that lets the scenery and the actors do most of the heavy lifting. Director Robert Redford also seems to express sentimentality and fondness for this period, setting, and family dynamic, without suggesting many cons or conflicts.
  • It relies significantly on voiceover to tell its story; this can be a help or a hindrance. While it makes for a more accurate adaptation of the novel, too much voiceover narration can tell you things without showing them to you and letting you come to your own conclusions and opinions. When not done properly, it can make a movie less cinematic.
  • This is the first starring role for Brad Pitt; debatably, he does better work later, but it’s interesting to see what he tries to do in this role.
  • The visuals are inspiring, making this film worthy of its win for best cinematography at the Academy Awards.

Themes crafted into A River Runs Through It

  • Fishing as a form of religion and practice of faith. The MacLean men treat their favorite hobby—fly fishing—as a sacred and sacrosanct activity; devoutness and attention to detail in this practice yields the best results and brings you closer to a perfect fisherman, just as devotion to and practicing one’s faith can, presumably, bring you closer to God.
  • The unpredictability and randomness of life. Based on how upright he lives his life, you would expect Norman to be the better fisherman; instead, it is Paul—the brother who strays from the path preferred by his pious father—who excels at fly fishing.
    • Roger Ebert wrote: “Redford and his writer, Richard Friedenberg, understand that most of the events in any life are accidental or arbitrary, especially the crucial ones, and we can exercise little conscious control over our destinies. Instead, they understand that the Reverend Maclean's lessons were about how to behave no matter what life brings; about how to wade into the unpredictable stream and deal with whatever happens with grace, courage and honesty.”
  • Coming of age. This is another timeless take on the transition-into-adulthood and rites-of-passage story.
  • Nature as a bond that brings family together. Here, the river serves as a metaphor for life and how to live it as well as a constant that the brothers and father can always turn to for happiness, sustenance, and communion.
  • Biblical lessons, including the Prodigal Son and Cain and Abel stories. While Paul doesn’t commit evil acts like Cain, he does live a more sinful life than his brother Norman, who stands as a more wholesome contrast.
  • The “brighter a candle burns, the faster it goes out,” wrote Washington Post critic Hal Hinson.

Similar movies that A River Runs Through It reminds you of

  • Legends of the Fall, also starring Brad Pitt
  • A Walk in the Clouds
  • The Cider House Rules
  • Lonesome Dove
  • The Man From Snowy River

Other films directed by Robert Redford

  • Ordinary People
  • The Milagro Beanfield War
  • Quiz Show
  • The Horse Whisperer
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance

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