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.