Happy 20th Birthday to a Great American Movie

Maybe you remember these lines.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

I love these lines. I love this book. I love the first page of this book as much as the first page of anything, I think.

And I love this film, which is radiant with love: Robert Redford’s love of Montana and Norman Maclean, and Norman Maclean’s love of the natural world and the master artist who imagined it all.

Redford’s adaptation of A River Runs Through It turned 20 years old last week. Today, it remains vivid and fresh and profound. It restores my soul. Last night, I watched this instead of watching the presidential debates. It rescued me from the divisiveness and hostility and dualism that poisons our political dialogue (especially online) even as it presents a vision of what we would do well to value in this American life. I slept well, dreaming of rivers and streams and fly fishing and Montana and light, and more light, and more light.

And when I woke up, the world seemed new, and so did God’s mercies.


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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • Brian Duignan

    Jeffrey, Thanks so much for calling our attention back to this book and this film. If it has truly been 20 years since the film came out, then it was also about 20 years ago that I read the book and was enraptured by its language and its themes. The first page…yes! Though, for me, I love the LAST page, and the last lines, as much as I love the last lines of anything.