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A River Runs Through It

A river runs through it

As a director, actor and chairman of the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford has never tried to hide his love for the environment. While he’s made several films with stunning backdrops, none is as fitting a tribute to the natural world as A River Runs Through It, which was released in 1992. The movie is based on the novella of the same name by Norman MacLean.

A river runs through it

Taking place in the Gallatin Mountain Range of Montana after World War I, it’s the story of two brothers, played by Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer, who struggle to communicate with each other and with their minister father, played by Tom Skerritt. Time and again opportunities to express what is in their hearts are missed, possibly gone forever. But whatever barriers existed between them is vanished when they are fly fishing together.

A river runs through it

A River Runs Through It is set in Missoula but it was shot in Bozeman, which is three hours (by car) to the east. Though not cited in the credits, the breathtaking confluence of rugged mountains, green valleys and flowing water speaks to the viewer as much as any characters. The movie’s themes of family, love and loss are perfectly represented by Redford’s lens which captures a landscape as pristine as the intentions of his characters.

A river runs through it

It’s easy to see why Redford, who narrates the film, fell in love with this part of the world. Several of the Gallatin Range peaks top out at over 10000 feet and its southern tip of reaches into the northernmost edge of Yellowstone National Park. Indeed, the range is a vital part of the Yellowstone Park Ecosystem. It is, as MacLean writes, “A world with dew still on it.”

A river runs through it

When the characters in A River Run Through It are outdoors they are, most often, fishing. Fly fishing to be precise. Not that anyone would need much prodding to drink in the spectacular surroundings, but viewers can imagine themselves alongside the characters, getting lost in thought, leaving the cares of a complicated world behind for a while.

A river runs through it

The simplicity of dropping a line in the water, with the hope that it might draw the attention of a trout, has been attractive for Montana residents for quite some time. And after A River Runs Through It’s release there was a spike in tourism to the area depicted in the film. A whole new set of people fell in love with mountains, fields and rivers of the Gallatin Range.

A river runs through it

Late in the film, after one of the characters announces he’s moving away to pursue life in the city, he invites another man to join him. The man scoffs at the idea of leaving, saying, “Oh, I’ll never leave here.” After spending only two hours in this picture postcard of a place, it’s hard to fault such a sentiment.

A river runs through it

A river runs through it

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  • Jennifer

    April 5, 2012

    Love this post! Montana is such a beautiful place. If I lived there, I’m not sure I’d want to leave either!

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