A River Runs Through It

Norman Maclean

The Film vs. The Book

The 1982 movie, A River Runs Through It is surprisingly very similar to the 1976 book. The plot follows along the same lines although there are some subtle differences that serve to further emphasize Paul and Norman's relationship with each other in their hometown. For example, in the film, there is a scene where Paul and Norman steal a boat. In my opinion, I feel this scene was added in to develop Paul and Norman's characters and present the viewers with a better idea of the level of influence Paul has on Norman. Similarly, I feel the book focuses more on Paul and Norman's relationship with each other than it does on the their interactions with their family. In the book, Maclean emphasized the brothers' relationship with each other and their father, and their tradition of fishing but in the movie, more significance was placed on their family. Another difference is that, in the book, Norman and Jessie were already married but in the movie, it showed that they met and then eventually got married. This difference gave the story something like a female lead, whereas in the book, Jessie only had about five lines.
A River Runs Through It Trailer

Why Is the Film Different?

In my opinion, the director slightly changed a few aspects of the book to present the viewers with a better picture of Norman and Paul's relationship. I feel that he made the characters more dramatic and bold than the book originally portrayed them as. For example, Jessie and Norman are already married in the book, whereas in the movie, it depicts Norman courting Jessie. These scenes subtly add to Norman's overall character--that he is more responsible and capable of creating, fostering, and maintaining a relationship than Paul is. Although there are a few difference, the overall plot and setting is maintained in the movie.

What do other people think?

From reading blogs online and movie reviews, I have come to the conclusion that most critics and individuals feel that, although there are minor differences between the film and book, the movie is an expert augmentation of the book. The slight differences do not take away from the plot or the overall setting. Instead, it helps further the conflicts portrayed in the book and furthermore emphasizes each characters' demeanor. Norman is portrayed as more responsible and caring while Paul is much more rebellious and obstinate in the film than the book. Similarly, both the book and the movie portray how the family tradition of fishing instigates conflicts and has Norman and his father questioning their faith and their morals, especially when Paul is beaten to death. I think everyone agrees that each boys' character is influenced by their father which, again, successfully develops the plot and conveys the same themes and conflicts as does the book.