Newest Reviews
If Beale Street Could Talk
Raining in the Mountain
Day Shall Come, The
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, A
Sons of Denmark
Light of My Life
Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The
Jerky Boys, The
Chambre en Ville, Une
Mustang, The
Baie des Anges, La
Ready or Not
Seven Days in May
Hollywood Shuffle
Uncut Gems
Daniel Isn't Real
Presidio, The
Farewell, The
Challenge of the Tiger
Ad Astra
Winslow Boy, The
Pain and Glory
Judgment at Nuremberg
Rambo: Last Blood
Sansho the Bailiff
Iron Fury
Ride in the Whirlwind
Deathstalker II
Cloak and Dagger
Love Ban, The
Newest Articles
Demy-Wave: The Essential Jacques Demy on Blu-ray
The Makings of a Winner: Play It Cool! on Blu-ray
Sony Channel's Before They Were Famous: A Galaxy of Stars
Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb: Fail-Safe on Blu-ray
Completely Different: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 2 on Blu-ray
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
  River, The Life Flows OnBuy this film here.
Year: 1951
Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Patricia Walters, Arthur Shields, Suprova Mukerjee, Thomas E. Breen, Radha, Adrienne Corri, Richard Foster, Penelope Wilkinson, Jane Harris, Jennifer Harris, Cecelia Wood, Sajjan Singh, Nimai Barik, Trilak Jetley
Genre: Drama
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Based on a wonderful novel by Rumer Godden, The River is a spellbinding work of visual poetry from master director Jean Renoir. A dreamy meditation on themes of childhood, love and death, the story concerns Harriet (Patricia Walters), a young English girl who enjoys an idyllic life on the banks of a great river with her family. Her kindly father (Esmond Knight) owns a jute mill which employs hundreds of local villagers, while mother (Nora Swinburne) tends their children: Elisabeth (Penelope Wilkinson), twins Muffie (Jane Harris) and Mouse (Jennifer Harris), little Victoria (Cecilia Wood) and mischief maker Bogey (Richard Foster), the only boy.

Impish housekeeper Nan (Suprova Mukerjee) tends this lively flock while teenage Valerie (Adrienne Corri) is a frequent visitor. Their neighbour Mr. John (Arthur Shields) dotes on his half-Indian daughter Melanie (Radha), who struggles with her heritage. One day Mr. John receives an unexpected houseguest, his cousin Captain John (Arthur E. Breen), recovering from a war injury that cost him one leg. The arrival of this handsome stranger stirs passions in Harriet, Valerie and Melanie, signalling the death of childhood and the dawn of their womanhood.

Although La Grande Illusion (1937) and La Regle de Jeu (1939) regularly top critics lists, The River is Renoir’s most watchable film and may even be his greatest. It is at once both an atypical venture for Renoir, in its visually driven narrative, and typifies his great strengths as a filmmaker: that keen observation, empathy and understanding of human nature. It was Renoir’s understanding that Indian culture is centred around the visual arts (dance, painting, calligraphy) that inspired his beautiful use of colour. This was the first colour film to be shot in India, framed with a painterly eye by Renoir and his nephew, the cinematographer Claude Renoir, with production design by Eugene Lourié of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1956) fame.

The duality of naturalism and dreamlike imagery underlines Renoir’s stated intention to both demystify India and illustrate the way art, religion and fable are inextricably woven into its fabric. Documentary footage mingles with drama, professional actors work alongside amateurs. Occasionally awkward performances from actors like the dancer Radha actually strengthen the truthfulness of the movie. In her only film credit Patricia Walters is strikingly naturalistic, while Arthur Breen - who really lost his leg in the war - is also affecting. When he slips and falls whilst playing with the girls, it’s a genuinely upsetting moment and his reactions of rage, humiliation and fear are entirely believable.

Renoir mirrors the awkwardness of adolescent feelings with the restlessness felt by Melanie and Captain John as each struggles to find their place in the world. The film touches on racial tensions, post-war trauma and post-colonial angst, but at its centre lies the river. It embodies the endless flowing of life, the idea that everything passes, all is transitory. Following her family tragedy, Harriet journeys along the river that finally revives both her and Captain John’s zest for life, before the film closes with a newborn baby’s cries. Author Rumer Godden was reluctant to hand over the film rights, having strangely detested another adaptation of her work - the excellent Black Narcissus (1947), yet wisely acquiesced and co-wrote the lyrical screenplay with Jean Renoir. The film bubbles with Renoir’s puckish humour, mostly centred around Harriet’s loving and lovable family - as when little Victoria asks why Captain John didn’t stay in battle until his other leg was blown off.

Click here to watch a clip

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 3073 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton


Last Updated: