Great Review from www.wearemoviegeeks.com!
Review by Dana Jung
Using a river as a metaphor for life is nothing new. Many books and films (think A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT) have made use of this strong and compelling image. The winding path of water, sometimes running fast with rapids, other times eddying into quiet pools and lagoons, teaming with a variety of river life, and so on. The potential for symbolism is endless. The new film THE RIVER WHY can safely be added to this long list. Beginning as a slow and thoughtful hodgepodge of philosophical ideas, the movie ultimately becomes a sweet-natured love story.
Zach Gilford (TVs FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) is Gus, a young man living under the double weight of his father’s minor but overbearing fame as a fisherman & author, and his mother’s constant bickering with his father. When they argue, he says, “it’s not who’s getting the last word, but who’s getting the next word. One day, he decides he’s had enough and leaves to live in his own place by the river, so he can do what he loves: fish. What starts out as an ode to angling, though, soon begins taking detours into the philosophy of religion and life, tossing off lines like, “The way that goes ahead often looks as if it went back.” But after meandering along in its first half like a slow current, this RIVER hits its stride in the second half as the banks narrow, and we even get some rapids (sorry, too much?) as the romance carries the movie to its emotionally satisfying conclusion.
Director Matthew Leutwyler (THE OH IN OHIO, another nice love story driven by offbeat characterization) effectively intercuts the lure and beauty of nature with the fine performances of his excellent cast. Gilford is funny and appealing as the awkward Gus. Veterans William Hurt and Kathleen Quinlan are simply wonderful as his parents, creating memorable characters from small parts that could have easily tipped into caricature. William Devane provides some much-needed humor as a grizzled journalist and fishing enthusiast who befriends Gus. And Amber Heard (literally miles away from her roles in ZOMBIELAND and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) shines in perhaps the most pivotal role in the film, as the girl of Gus’s dreams. This talented young actress has shown such range in her performances, stardom has to be just around the corner.
Although it may take some patience on the part of the viewer, THE RIVER WHY, like a sunny afternoon spent fishing in a shady pool, will eventually yield its own small rewards.