The River (Widescreen Edition)
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2002
The art of farming is by far the oldest, most time-honored tradition. It is the ideal way to make an honest living, raise your family away from the madness of the city and gain self-satisfaction by doing something that really matters. "The River" effectivly portrays the plight experienced by many American farmers during the 1980's economical recession. Flooding, forclosure and overdue bills were just a part of life for those most discouraging and undeniably frightning of years. Farm-friendly legislation has been passed in recent years so farmers can apply for disaster relief, equipment loans and bankrupcy loans. The goal is to keep the Family Farm as part of American culture. "The River" was shot in Northwestern Tennessee near Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City and also in Birmingham, Alabama. A 400-acre parcel of land alongside the Holston River, in Tennessee was cleared and turned into a real working farm in just four weeks. The flood scenes were produced in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority using a dam upriver which was slated for repairs. The scenery in the movie is absolutly breathtaking. The mountains, fields and river all seem to blend into one big beautiful picture. "The River" was the third in a trio of farming-based movies that year. The other two are "Country", with Jessica Lange and "Places In the Heart" with Sally Field.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2000
A heart-land tragedy relived annually by the rain and consequential flooding of the family farmland by the adjacent river. Mels' character is sullen and cold. He is the quintessential traditional hardworking farmer. He loves his family and works almost pointlessly to keep them on their doomed property. It's difficult to watch him sulk and suffer inwardly. His character is extremely introverted and stubbornly independent. Sissy Spacek is great as the wife who tries to keep her family's head above water literally. She portrays a strong, willful and faithful person. This is a good rainy night movie. The kids are great actors and contribute a lot to the traditional values and family bonding.
The onscreen chemistry between Spacek and Gibson underscores the uncomfortable aura of the marriage in the movie. There's something strange about the couple, something that just doesn't click; a feeling of looming doom regarding their relationship. Scott Glenn's character does not help the uneasy tension.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2011
The movie is top-excellent and of great quality with the acting throughout the entire film. I read the reviews before buying this flick and I was astonished at some of the feedback on this movie. One four-star rating attacks Gibson's character, especially due to his nonreaction to being spat on by a striking worker due to his part as a "scab" at a factory. Did you really expect Mel Gibson to act like his character on "Braveheart" and try to impale the character that spat on him? He's playing a character that obviously has little tolerance to fight back because of it. Obviously, his family is at hard times and he simply saw that there was little difference between himself and the strikers. They're all just trying to keep their families afloat, is all. Mel Gibson played a terrific part in this movie and he was brilliant in every scene.
The movie has a lot to do with the 1980's recession that is plaguing farms throughout the state of Tennessee, not to mention the constant flooding of the river that is threatening to wash away everything that the farmers worked hard for. The movie was very realistic and I could easily watch it a thousand times over. 5 stars all the way!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 5, 2009
Sissy Spacek received her fourth Oscar nomination for her role in 1984's "The River." She plays a farm wife, struggling to keep her family intact while her husband (Mel Gibson) tries to save their farm. The farm abuts a small river, which seems to flood every time it rains. The flooding ruins their crops and puts the family at constant peril of bankruptcy. Add to this mixture Scott Glenn, who plays a scheming developer; he wants to buy up all the land and have the government build a dam to flood the valley. Gibson and Spacek refuse to sell their land, and Gibson even takes work at a local mill to stave off creditors. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Gibson, he is replacing striking workers and gets branded a scab.

"The River" tackles a very worth topic - the farming crisis of the 1980s, when many small farmers lost their land for a variety of economic reasons. However, it also tries to address unions, scab workers, and several other social issues. By doing so, the message of the film ends up being a bit jumbled. There also are several unbelievable scenes; in particular, there are several scenes where a crowd reacts in unison, all set to swelling music.

Some viewers are likely to find Gibson's character overly stubborn and aloof. I didn't have a negative reaction to him; he's meant to represent, I think, the many quiet men who fight for their families. These kind of men, though, often are very emotionally expressive, which can make watching them onscreen rather frustrating. I found Scott Glenn's character more problematic. He is supposed to be the villain, but he starts off far too nice before taking a nasty (and abrupt) turn very late in the picture. Fortunately, Sissy Spacek's character is much more fully rounded, and she gives a very good performance. Her performance makes the movie (barely) worth a look.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
After director Mark Rydell was nominated for his one Oscar in 1981 with ON GOLDEN POND he followed up with another "water drama",this time replacing Katherine Hephburn and Henry Fonda in an already successful Broadway play with Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson in a trite heartland drama by Robert Dillon.THE RIVER was not successful then, and time has not been on it's side to make it any more endearing or enduring.Spacek had already won her single Oscar for COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER and Gibson was still emerging from "Down Under" when THE RIVER was filmed.The problem with this film is that this story is so GRAPES OF WRATH, but not anywhere as good.A struggling farmer and his wife try to stave off the floods of the river and the floods of the capitalist who want to drown the valley farmland and make a dam that will generate enough water for everyone.( Not a bad idea.They did it where I live and people were given fair market value and we have lots of water!)Well, Tom Garvey (Gibson) is laughingly bullheaded and will not leave the land of his ancestors.Spacek is WAY more convincing as his wife Mae who stays behind to work the land while Tom becomes a "scab",crossing the picket line in order to get work.The plot is terribly predictable with the perfect happy ending with the appropriate triumphant swell of orchestra.The chemistry between Spacek and Gibson is non-existent! They are simply unbelievable as a struggling couple in love.Scott Glenn's interaction as Joe Wade, Mae's former boyfriend and the man who wants to buy up the land and flood the valley, is far more convincing.I had not seen this film since it first was in the theatres in 1984, and was surprised at just HOW bad Mel Gibson is in this film,and how corny the entire script is! The best thing about this film is the river,itself,which seemed to be it's natural self,unaffected and brilliant in it's acting!If you must see it, get a VHS tape for a penny!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
THE RIVER (1984) is the story of Midwest farmers who not only battle against ruinous drought and floodwaters, but who must contend with Joe Wade (Scott Glenn), a modern-day land baron. Wade's enormous farm complex is too far from the river for irrigation, so he works with the local bank to force small farmers into foreclosure. Failing that, he offers to buy his neighbors out, and some accept this offer. Once all the properties are his, Wade will dam the river and create a lake where their farms once stood.

Tom Garvey (Mel Gibson) and wife Mae (Sissy Spacek), who Wade was a one-time suitor of,
are among the several who mightily resist his efforts to make them homeless.

There are several exciting action sequences, yet even in supposed defeat, Wade's last words seem prophetic.
They are in fact the title of this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2014
I had seen this before and liked it then, and still do. I lived in times that were hard for us, because my family was poor. They were farm folks, but had no experiences like this one, of which I am aware, but most of them were from Oklahoma, and I have heard some stories about the weather there. Also, in California, I recall the farmers having some really hard times for various reasons. It can be a tough life. This is a very touching movie. Mel is a good actor, even though he was quite young when this film was made. Sissy is one of the best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2013
Excellent early mel gibson movie. Interesting point is that he is from australia and supposedly owned a farm there. So in a way he is playing himself. I was not such a fan of sissy spacek. She did ok in the mom role but seemed not to understand fully the political implications of their situation. Another excellent movie in this vein is Country, which also came out in 1984. I wish the film industry today could go back to making meaningful commentary about human existence instead of overly-moneyed garbage that people will never watch again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2008
This movie may not be the best Mel Gibson movie you will ever see, but to me it is special. I was and still am a part of the community where the movie was made. I live not five miles from where most of the movie was shot here in Hawkins County, and within 25 miles of the Tri-Cities area of Northeast Tennessee. If you enjoy movies of this time-frame, then you will enjoy it very much. I think that the acting was good and although not perfect, it makes for a good movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The River with Mel Gibson & Sissy Spacek as his wife is such a great movie. I really felt bad for them when the hard rains came and flooded the river. The flood ruined their crops so they had no way to pay their loan on the property and would have lost everything if he hadn't taken a side job. I would recommend this movie to anyone that loves Mel Gibson. There is a lot of action during the whole movie.
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