A River Runs Through It (Then and Now)

July 1, 2010 — 4 Comments

It is incredible that it has been 21 years since A River Runs Through It released.  I was a mere 14 years of age and trying to figure out what the world was about then.  To be honest, I have not ceased that pursuit. The tears still run down my face when I watch this beautiful film.

The movie is timeless and I’ve always thought it as one of my top 10 favorite movies. Robert Redford beautifully narrates the film.  You can sense his voice connecting with the author as one looking back at life reflecting on the journey and what one has learned. To add, Mark Isham’s score completes the emotions on-screen. I listened to the soundtrack when writing this.

The story is from the perspective of Norman Maclean played by Craig Sheffer and his interactions with his family after he comes home from college in the 1920s. His brother Paul played by Brad Pitt in particular is wild and rebellious but the connection between them remains deep as does their heritage as Macleans living in the beautiful state of Montana. I don’t have a brother but I’ve come to appreciate what it means to care for someone no matter where they are or how rebellious they may be. My uncle is one whom I love and now could be near meeting his maker (since writing this post, he passed on July 2nd, 2010, his birthday). My mother has been like the character Norman and my uncle in his later life has been the character Paul. It has not been easy and in many ways the whole family has wanted to give up on him. But we have not. There is a conversation between Paul and Norman that illustrates my mother and uncle’s situation.

Paul: Couldn’t you find him?
Norman: The hell with him.
Paul: Well, I thought we were supposed to help him.
Norman: How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?
Paul: By taking him fishing.
Norman: He doesn’t like fishing. He doesn’t like Montana and he sure as hell doesn’t like me.
Paul: Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.

Anyone who struggles to help a loved one might understand this line from Paul, “Maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.” Paul is speaking of himself if you follow the story and Norman immediately understands. I pray that it doesn’t get this way for my daughters as they grow older but I would never give up as my mother (nor their 93-year old mother) never gave up on my uncle.

There is another important line in the movie spoken by Norman’s father in one of his last sermon: “And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

I feel as if I’ve been rescued many times by my friends.  And I have even tried to rescue a few.  My mother has been such a great example of how to love completely without complete understanding.

This is why it is so important to love and forgive.  We live in a broken world.  Lower your expectations but remain hopeful.

A fish may rise.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”



4 responses to A River Runs Through It (Then and Now)


    Well said. That line is probably my favorite as well. I have not done it yet but, I’ve wanted to play the clip of Paul catching the big Rainbow as an illustration of a man living within his glory. It captures what that is like so well. I watch the film over and over. I remember the first time I watched it in a theater in Austin Texas. I had moved to Texas to escape the pain of an ended relationship and all the mistakes I had made during college. I think it was that story that compelled me to move back to my “Montana”, Oregon and work through my struggles. I have never left Oregon since and God lead me through each of this struggles usually with one of my favorite waters playing a role.


      I think I saw that video on YouTube separately as a scene. It’s unbelievable. I know you are a fly fisherman and I am not. But I appreciate the beauty of it and connecting with God that way. Brother, we need to meet up at some point. I really appreciate you sharing your heart. I may even need you to teach me how to fly fish.


        David, I got to teach a few brothers from BCNW a few flyfishing lessons this past week and it really stirred something deep in my soul. The sport is so connected to nature that it really is hard to not think about God while casting a line. I’d love to take you out on the river sometime. It is where I truly come alive.
        Cheers, John


        I believe that in you John. God put you in a place where you are as well for a reason to do this more easily than others. I definitely need to get out your way sooner than later. I am a bit golfer (or was before having 2 kids in the past 2 years) but having that same patience I always figured I had the knack for fishing as well. I am your student.

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