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Blu-ray Review: The River Why

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In a perfect world, we would be free to pursue our greatest ambitions, live our lives the way we choose, and above all, understand our purpose in the universe completely. Gus Orviston (Zach Gilford) is trying to make his own world perfect. Raised by two fishing legends (Kathleen Quinlan and William Hurt, that latter of whom sports an English accent) whose styles are poles apart, Gus has grown up to be a fantastic fly fisherman, but life with his parents and neurotic little brother (Gattlin Griffith) has proved too problematic for his raging teenage hormones, and Gus leaves the conurbation confines of Portland, Oregon, in order to engage in his one drive in life — fishing, of course — and live his life as he sees fit.

And, while two out of three ain’t bad, Gus soon finds himself longing for a little understanding, especially after he finds a body in the river and starts to ask himself “Why?” Living out of a small cabin in the Oregon woods, Gus gets by from selling or trading fishing flies and smoked water vertebrate to the locals. But his social life is far from faultless, as he’s completely unable to chat up the lovely young blonde (Amber Heard) that he first met at one of his father’s conventions. His sagacity for sage-seeking is also lacking, to wit he befriends a quaint, nearby philosopher at large named Titus (Dallas Roberts), who has a German Shepherd named Descartes that likes to sit and sway in a rocking chair.

Based on the 1983 novel by David James Duncan, The River Why is a coming-of-age story that pits a young protagonist amongst many of life’s mysteries (something we all go through at one point or another). It’s a beautifully photographed and finely acted indie flick that will no doubt move too slow for the average spoiled moviegoers out there, but should appeal to those of you who don’t mind if a film doesn’t divulge every single aspect about its characters and settings. Friday Night Lights star Zach Gilford (who reminds me of a cross between Zach Braff and Jesse Eisenberg) turns in a better-than-average feat as our central character, while the supporting cast deliver believable performances overall.

Image Entertainment issues this enjoyable family-friendly drama to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 1080p transfer that shows off many of the film’s gorgeous locales vividly (though some of the film’s dark scenes are way too dark) and with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that serves adequately. English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are included, and the list of special features contains a theatrical trailer and about 34 minutes of interviews with cast and crew, all of whom say the same thing: it’s a coming-of-age story — which is exactly what is too. The River Why is a simple, lighthearted story about one boy’s quest to that terrifying realm known as manhood.

And frankly, it was exactly what I was in the mood for.

I say check it out.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.