“The River Why”

Amber Heard and Zach Gilford in a scene from the River Why

THE long-awaited and controversial movie adaptation of James Duncan’s cult book “The River Why” has been getting some decidedly mixed reviews from film critics after showings at film festivals.

One did admit to wanting to go fly fishing after watching the film, and delighted in the Oregonian river scenery others have focussed on the scenery provided by co-star Amber Heard. But for a fly fishing perspective read Drake Magazine publisher Tom Bie’s review here .

According to Oregonian writer Shawn Levy the movie failed to capture the magic of the book . The Dallas arts  magazine FrontRow writer Peter Simek suggests the protagonist Gus “Orviston’s brooding is the worst adolescent think-speak since Sean Penn’s adaptation of ‘Into The Wild.'” (both link via Midcurrent.com)

The River Why plays with what could be an effective metaphor – fishing as a discipline that tethers and balances man with nature, and the fishing scenes do make you want get out and into the river. But the surrounding story just leaves you wondering why oh why oh why.

For an article on the battles during the making of the film click to our earlier article here


  • There have been positive reviews as well. Here are two:

    “Worth the [20 plus year] wait”
    “Lovely understated filmmaking”
    “Eye popping”
    “When it looks this easy, you know it was hard work indeed.”
    — The Southern Oregon Mail Tribune, April 4, 2010

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    The River Why

    Last week I got to see the world premier of the film The River Why at the Dallas International Film Festival. The movie is based on the book The River Why by David James Duncan. Duncan is a famed environmental and philosophical fiction writer that weaves fantastic narratives about fishing, religion, and baseball. Duncan should be a staple of American literature. Not only is the River Why an amazing read, but so is the heart-wrenching The Brothers K, an excellent work set in the Vietnam War era.

    For the most part, it is common knowledge that the book is always better than the movie. This is the case for The River Why, but that does not mean the filmmakers failed. Quite the contrary, the movie version of The River Why is really good. The film captured many of the philosophical underpinnings of the book. The book leaves the natural world to one’s imagination. Whereas the movie brings the wonderful nature of an Oregon river basin alive. My advice would be to read the book and see the movie.

    • Thanks Tom for the links. Like buying flyrods or a slice of pizza I always reckon its worth looking at different reviews for a opinions, but really what counts is personal choice. Not everyone’s tastes are the same, so suck it and see.

      But also I’m wondering if you are the same Tom Cohen as is listed as screenwriter and executive producer of the movie. If so thanks for reading the Journal, and for having the cojones to make a movie from such a well loved book _ always a tough task.

      I’m sure there are a lot of our readership who will be very keen to come along and see the film when you get wider showings _ if you wouldn’t mind passing that information along that would be great.

      Feel free to give me an email

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