The River Why (2010) – Review

2 Stars

In The River Why, recent high school graduate Gus (Zach Gilford) decides that city life isn’t for him. He packs up and leaves his family, opting to live in the mountains near the streams that he’s fished in all his life. His parents (William Hurt and Kathleen Quinlan) swear by their fishing poles, and for Gus, it’s the only thing that makes sense. He survives by selling his catches and occupying a rundown cabin. One day he happens on Eddy (Amber Heard), a young beauty swimming nude and fishing in the river. A spark flies, but Eddy disappears into the wilderness without a trace. Gus is featured in a newspaper column about fly fishing after teaching the writer a thing or two about fishing. He becomes a small celebrity and starts selling his own flies and giving out lessons. He calls Eddy out in the column, and she comes back into his life. Will Gus find what he’s looking for in the wild?

Gus seems to know exactly what he wants out of life and instead of going out and discovering it, he goes out and lives it from the start. The supporting cast makes only appearances, with scenes mainly consisting of Gus wandering about and doing something with fish while explaining something or other in a dreary voice over. A lot of scenes feel forced, with characters spouting out stinted dialogue and following barely motivated lines of thought. For living in the wild Gus is awfully clean from head to toe. He suffers no hardships and without any obstacles to overcome his life resembles more of a weekend camping trip.

The existentialist plot is poorly conceived and executed. What little reactions and choices Gus makes have no bearing on any outcome. Instead the movie basis direction heavily on happenstance. Gus is a pretty lucky guy, not only does he always get great catches, but there’s a beautiful girl that also lives in the woods and loves fishing. He wants to disappear into the woods, but too many nice people keep popping up and he just can’t say no to them. Life is good for Gus and he’s pretty happy living simply, which in the ends turns out to be the point of the film. Don’t just settle. Unfortunately you’ve already settled for this movie.

Author David Duncan and publisher Sierra Club wanted to remove their names from this film after a lawsuit about the rights, which suggests this isn’t a great representation of the source material either. The River Why, why indeed.

Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Stars: Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan

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