A River Runs Through It (film)

1992 film by Robert Redford

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 film about two sons of a Presbyterian minister — one studious and the other rebellious — as they grow up and come of age in a time that roughly spans the Prohibition era (1919-33) in the United States: from World War I (1917-18) to the early days of the Great Depression (1929-41).

Directed by Robert Redford. Written by Richard Friedenberg, based on the novella of the same name by Norman Maclean.
The Story of an American Family.

Norman Maclean

  • [narrating]My father looked at me for a long time, just looked at me and this was the last he and I ever said to me about Paul's death. Indirectly though, he was present in many of our conversations. Once for instance, my father asked me a series of questions that suddenly made me wonder if I understood even my father, whom I felt closer to than any man I have ever known, "you like to tell true stories" he asked and I answered, "Yes, I like to tell stories that are true." Then he asked, "after you have finished your true stories sometime, why don't you make up a story and the people to go with it, only then will you understand what happened and why. It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."
  • In my family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in Missoula, Montana where Indians still appeared out of the wilderness to walk the honky tonks and brothels of Front Street.
  • [narrating] My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.
  • The Burns family ran a general store in a one store town and still managed to do badly. They were Methodist, a denomination my father always referred to as Baptists who could read.
  • [narrating] In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
  • [narrating] As time passed, my father struggled for more to hold on to, asking me again and again: had I told him everything. And finally I said to him, "maybe all I really know about Paul is that he was a fine fisherman." "You know more than that," my father said; "he was beautiful." And that was the last time we ever spoke of my brother's death.
  • The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.
  • [narrating] That was the only time we fought. Perhaps we wondered after which one of us was tougher. But if boyhood questions aren't answered before a certain point, they can't be raised again. So we returned to being gracious to one another, as the church well suggested.
  • [narrating] Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will 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 those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

Rev. Maclean

  • Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.


Paul: As I live and breathe.
Rawhide: [hungover] Buster here wants to fish.
Norman: You're late, Neal.
Neal Burns: Yeah, yeah, I didn't get in until late.
Paul: Well, I didn't get in at all but I was here.
Norman: Neal, Paul. Paul, Neal.
Paul: Neal, in Montana there's three things we're never late for: church, work and fishing.
Neal: Anywho, this is... [introducing Rawhide]
Paul and Norman: [in uncaring unison] We've met.

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.

Paul: Hello, Jess.
Jessie: Hey, Paul.
Paul: How's your brother?
Jessie: You both left him alone.
Paul: Well, I'm sorry about that. That was my fault.
Jessie: Well, you're not forgiven.
Paul: Was Norman forgiven?
Jessie: Norman's not funny.

Jessie: If he came back next summer, would you try and help him?
Norman: If you wanted me to.
Jessie: Well he's not coming back.
Norman: Well, at least he's got friends out there.
Jessie: Who Ronald Coleman? Why is it the people who need the most help... won't take it?
Norman: I don't know Jess.

Norman: So, what do you think?
Jessie: What do I think? I think it's the berries!
Norman: You do?
Jessie: Yeah, to get away, Chicago, God it's haven.
Norman: Have you ever been?
Jessie: No, not anywhere. Helena. Congratulations Norman!
Norman: Truth is, I'm not sure I want to leave.
Jessie: Montana? Why? It'll always be here.
Norman: Not Montana.
Jessie: Then what? WHAT?
Norman: I'm not sure I want to leave you.