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STUDIO Image Entertainment
RUNNING TIME 104 Minutes
A by the numbers coming of age story revolving around fishing with marvelous nature shots and the beautiful Amber Heard.
Director Matthew Leutwyler Actors Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Dallas Roberts, Kathleen Quinlan, William De Vane
While Gus loves fly-fishing as much as his father does, a noted author and angler, he feels compelled to establish a life wholly separate from his dad’s notoriety. Relocating to a new home in the wilderness, Gus connects with a charming young woman who becomes vital to his journey of self-discovery. Romantic drama, based on David James Duncan’s novel.
It’s official. There is a movie about every sport ever created. The River Why is a coming of age tale about fishing. That’s right, fishing. I’ve been fishing many times in my life and it never happens like it does in this movie. They throw a line in the water and within 5 seconds they have a fish. Really? This would have been my number one hobby as a kid and I would not be reviewing movies if that was what I had experienced.
The movie is based off an inspirational best selling romantic biography. The problem it has right from the start is the problem most adult transition biographies have. A film does not have access to narrative thoughts a book has without resorting to the usually frowned upon voice over. The River Why doesn’t try to get around this and immediately surrenders to having Zach Gilford, as the narrator and focal character Gus, telling us his feelings as the film begins.
Amazingly, even though Gilford speaks most the film, I didn’t really hear Matt Sorenson from Friday Night Lights, an issue that normally bugs me. I always found the TV character whiny and had a drone to his voice, and that seemed to carry into anything else I saw Zach Gilford in, which hasn’t been a lot. The separation from that character gives me more respect for Gilford as an actor than I previously had.
Amber Heard plays Eddy and is gorgeous as usual. I always find her to visually be a cross between Scarlett Johansson and Kristen Stewart with acting skills much like the former. Her smile and dimples elevate the experience of any movie she is in, just look at Drive Angry or The Informers. She plays the independent and intelligent elusive fish that Gus spends his time attempting to catch.
Heard’s character had some very interesting sub plots, such as her feelings for protecting the fish and her abstract ideas of adventure, but any time she shared the screen with Gilford it seemed if the screenwriter didn’t know what to do with her. She became a board to bounce thoughts off of for the lead, but we already had the voice overs to use for that.
There is also the mandatory misunderstood by the family that most transition of responsibility tales have. The parents (William Hurt and Kathleen Quinlan) are constantly fighting with each other and when they need new ways to start a fight they use one of the children. The Father also employs Gus to assist him at book signings for his popular fishing novel. Dad is obsessed with some sort of fisherman’s bible that is referenced many times during the 104 minutes of story. The brother is aptly named Bill Bob, just to enforce this is a redneck movie about fishing, and he seems to be in his own movie, which I imagine is the never filmed sequel to The Never Ending Story. We don’t see the parallel universe that he sees, but he attempts to tell it to Gus, and later Gus attempts to tell another Bill Bob story to Eddy that becomes somehow more confusing by having an adult explain a child’s imagination.
The family stories serve their purpose to propel Gus out of his house and have him get started on his self discovery. From the beginning you can guess the family relationship will end one of 2 mandatory ways for these kinds of films, either tragically or happy.
William De Vane also has a bit part, but he’s not in there long enough to really enjoy the Rolling Thunder actor. The last role of significance is the best friend Titus played by Dallas Roberts. He is enjoyable enough and adds some humor, but I felt his story was just thrown out at the end. We never get a goodbye, and he doesn’t appear once his goal was achieved.
Even though the story was predictable and simple, the visuals were stunning. This week I have had the ultimate Oregon travel pack between this movie and Meek’s Cutoff. There could not be two more beautiful nature expositions about the state. The director has a great eye using the camera work, the environment and the set locations to add life to the film and make the predictably boring tale vibrant enough to hold attention. Only a few underwater shots are taken, but aquatic life is plentiful throughout and often from above the water. If you are a fisherman, you can probably enjoy the variety of fish shown and the displays of making bait and lures.
The transfer serves the beautiful camera work well. The black levels are rich, the varied and abundant vegetation is vibrant green and the water ranges from a pristine blue-green to the harsh brown associated with bigger cold water rivers. The period setting also enabled some of the bright colors of the past to stand out due to the great natural colors at play. This is a great DVD to use to show off nature in HD. The sound on the DTS track was clean and the dialogue was distinct and easy to digest.
There are not many special features on the Blu Ray, just interviews and a trailer. I feel the need to warn you that there is a big difference in audio level between the film and the interviews, and I about blew my eardrums out when the interviews started. The one thing most of the interviewees stated was this film brought them an appreciation for fishing and how they may not have known much before filming, most were seeking more of the hobby after filming concluded.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars