“The River” (2001) – Chris Luedtke

The River is best described as a movie that portrays how much other people’s lives change during the course of a few moments. Here we are taken through the moments leading up to a young mother’s suicide attempt and shown the lives of others and how their lives are being altered at those very moments.


The idea behind The River is awesome but it treads an interesting concept in shallow waters. I’d make a rough estimate that the amount of time in each character’s life is in the area of ten to twenty minutes. Dramatic changes are met, always at the point where a gunshot is heard throughout. All characters are connected but in an extremely rough way. Some are merely within the vicinity of others, some do know each other and a few play an actual part in the gunshot heard around the city. Characters are very original however and if the one thing that completely moved me through this movie were the extraordinary characterizations and the flawless performances. The top notch acting should be noted especially on Paula Forsgren, whose portrayal of Santeri’s mother almost moved me to tears.


The River really is a contrast of light and dark. Some of the lives get better and some get worse but none of them stay the same. For as much joy and warmth I felt I also experienced a good amount of despair and depression as well. This ability that The River has crafted to tug at heartstrings cannot be denied. I find myself between factions and I don’t see myself there too often. The connections between the characters could have been much closer however. For as close as The River got with me I was always brought back to the fact that characters in here are, again, not very connected with each other. For what The River is worth everything it does works but could have been much more personal than it ended up being.


Most shots in The River are set up beautifully. The opening sequence took place at a bungee jump which gave me the feeling that I was about to dive into different personas. The camera did a good job of following around characters and making me feel like I was getting inside their head through mere facial expressions and actions. However, my big problem was a reoccurring focus problem that made me feel like I needed glasses. In an attempt to excuse this and attempt to establish it as symbolic element that the movie is supposed to portray rather than just poor camera work I’ll say that it reminded me of floating on my back in the water staring out as my head occasionally submerged with my eyes open.


Overall if you’re looking for a movie that’s driven by characters you’ll want to check this one out. Those looking for a more story driven movie will probably want to shy away from this since the story is bare bones. In fact, if this movie relied more on story than characters it would fail miserably. Still, it felt good in the end but left me a little dry.


Rating: ★★★☆


-Chris Luedtke

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