The River (1984)

# 14677 IMDb PG-13 

The River (1984

taglineHe showed her his strength, his courage, his incredible will. She showed him her love. [Theatrical Australia]

By Mark Rydell

Drama (2h 04min)


Rated 6.3 after 5,531 votes on 08-Jul-18.

Nominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for OscarNominated for Oscar
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations


Tom and Mae Garvey are a hard working farming couple living with their two children on the east Tennessee farm owned by Tom's family for generations. They and many of their neighbors have hit hard times of late. A downturn in the economy has led to dwindling land prices. But the biggest problem of late has been that their crop land has been prone to flooding as the property is adjacent to a river. Manipulating the powers that be including a local senator and the local bank, Joe Wade, who also grew up in the area and now runs the local milling company that sets the local grain prices, is working behind the scenes to buy up the properties along the river for a song as he wants to build a dam which would flood the Garvey's and others riverfront properties. The dam would generate electricity, but more importantly for Joe it would provide irrigation opportunities for farm properties away from the river, such as his own. Tom already intensely dislikes Joe as he and Mae used to go together. Joe's behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings coupled with the continuation of these and many other farming problems makes it increasingly difficult for the Garveys to hold onto their farm, Tom who seems determined at any cost to stay on the land of his ancestors.

Popular faces

Mark Rydell (director) Mel Gibson Sissy Spacek Scott Glenn Don Hood Billy Green Bush James Tolkan Andy Stahl


From the same director


Mel Gibson (Tom Garvey), Sissy Spacek (Mae Garvey), Shane Bailey (Lewis Garvey), Becky Jo Lynch (Beth Garvey), Scott Glenn (Joe Wade), Don Hood (Senator Neiswinder), Billy Green Bush (Harve Stanley), James Tolkan (Howard Simpson), Bob W. Douglas (Hal Richardson), Andy Stahl (Dave Birkin), Lisa Sloan (Judy Birkin), Larry D. Ferrell (Rod Tessley), Susie Toomey (Sally Tessley), Kelly Toomey (Lisa Tessley), Frank Hoyt Taylor (Zemke (as Frank Taylor)), Ivan Green (Smoot), Desmond Couch (Wilderfoot), Charles G. Riddle (Youngdall), Jim Antonio (Dan Gaumer), Samuel Scott Osborne (Billy Gaumer), Amy Rydell (Betty Gaumer), David Hart (Harley), Barry Primus (Roy), Mark Erickson (Baines), Jack Starrett (Swick)...


Robert Dillon (story), Robert Dillon (screenplay), Julian Barry (screenplay)

Produced by

Robert Cortes (producer), Edward Lewis (producer)


IMDb Comment

The River features a decent portrayal of the harsh life of American farmers and delivers a fine message that stands as the epitome of genuine American virtues. It is the story of Tom Garvey (Mel Gibson) and his family. They cultivate land close to the banks of the Tennessee River and have to fight floods and financial crises while one of the local capitalists plans to build a reservoir and wants them to abandon their land. Tom and his wife Mae (Sissy Spacek) are unwilling to yield. They rather chose to continue their inhuman struggles and stick to the grounds of their ancestors. What follows is a desperate and almost destructive fight to survive against adversities that seem invincible.

Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek are portrayed as a loving couple that would never back down. Despite mounting pressure and considerable setbacks it is a question of honor and integrity for them to hold on. Due to financial reasons, Tom takes a job as a factory worker and has to leave Mae with the work at home. Mae is a rugged but also very sensitive and determined woman. She is not as stubborn as her husband and does indeed show signs of wavering and despair. Yet she is as dogged as he is when it comes to defend their land and their family. This is where both get their strength from. Land and family. The most important values for Americans. As long as there is land, and as long as the family is intact, there is always hope. Whatever adversity is thrown upon you – natural or man-made – backing down is no option. The movie lives from this emotional and psychologically compelling commitment and brings these genuine American virtues to the fore with sincere authenticity and without glossing over the facts. The life of the family is portrayed in all its depressing hardships and stands as a symbol for the bold ambitions and the perseverance of the pioneers of the historical frontier. At the same time Tom and Mae embody natural virtues of not just Americans but all humans.

Apart from the very obvious emphasis on courage and steadfastness, the movie provides visually intriguing sequences. The camera work is sublime and manages to capture at least some of the most picturesque images of the Tennessee River. The entire movie is shot on location in the Volunteer State along the banks of the great river. The scenes shot at night and during heavy rain are stunning and require substantial experience.

The River is indeed more than an average movie. Its story is simple but compelling. The characters are decently portrayed and the message is both appealing and inspirational. Storyline developments are sometimes still too slow and some scenes are occasionally long-winded. It is a typical American movie, thus elaborating strongly on American issues and American virtues.

Memorable quotes

Joe Wade: Sooner or later there's gonna be too much rain, or too much drought, or too much corn... I can wait.

3 total 


Director Mark Rydell once said of Sissy Spacek: "She is the consummate American rural young woman, with strength, and fiber, and a luminous quality."

23 total 


Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations 
Academy Awards, USA • Golden Globes, USA • Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA

Other titles

Río violento (Argentina) • Реката (Bulgaria (Bulgarian title)) • O Rio do Desespero (Brazil) • El río (Colombia (cable TV title)) • Stormfloden (Denmark) • Cuando el río crece (Spain) • Kun joki tulvii (Finland) • La rivière (France) • To potami tis orgis (Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title)) • Το ποτάμι της οργής (Greece) 



Argentina:13 / Australia:M / Canada:PG / Finland:K-12 / Iceland:L / Ireland:15 / Norway:16 / Peru:14 / Portugal:M/12 / Singapore:PG / South Korea:15 / Sweden:11 / United Kingdom:15 / United States:PG-13 / West Germany:12



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