The River (1959)

The River (1959)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The River Photos

Movie Info

Three teenage girls are living in Bengali (India) near a big river: Harriet is the oldest child of a big family of English settlers. Valerie is the unique daughter of an American industrialist. Melanie has an American father and an Indian mother. One day, a man arrives. He will be the first love of the three girls.
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Criterion Collection

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Nora Swinburne
as The Mother
Esmond Knight
as The Father
Arthur Shields
as Mr. John
Adrienne Corri
as Valerie
Thomas E. Breen
as Captain John
Radha Shri Ram
as Melanie
as Melanie
Jane Harris
as Muffie
Cecily Wood
as Victoria
Cecelia Wood
as Victoria
Ram Singh
as Shajin Singh
June Hillman
as Narrator
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The River

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (4)

Jean Renoir's 1951 masterpiece, his first film in color.

Full Review… | October 24, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Withal, the illustrations of the country are beautiful beyond words-the serenity of the river, the power of boatmen sweeping its stream, the bazaars full of color and movement, [and] the dazzling brilliance of festivals.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

As beautiful as it is moving.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Renoir fashioned what might be his sweetest movie about family and one of the post-war years' most serene cinematic statements.

August 2, 2005
Village Voice
Top Critic

It emphasizes Technicolor's vibrancy, but it's also notable for the way it accentuates muted tones, like the clay bricks and the sand by the riverbanks.

Full Review… | April 23, 2015
The Dissolve

a sumptuous visual feast that foregoes narrative drive for the simple beauties of lived existence on the banks of the Ganges River

Full Review… | April 22, 2015
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for The River

Jean Renoir is one of my favorite filmmakers, I especially love the films The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion, both excellent looks class and war respectively. This film was made a good ten years after both and was his first color film. The film is in English (though it was not made in Hollywood) and was filmed in India. It?s told from the perspective of a British girl of about twelve or thirteen living with her family in colonial India next to the titular river (The Ganges). The film follows a fairly standard coming of age formula, the girl is infatuated with the wounded American war veteran who has moved in next door even though he is clearly more interested in her older sister. The plot isn?t really what the focus is here, the focus is really more on the backdrop of the river, which is a symbol for the stream of life which is juxtaposed with the trivialities of this day to day life. The film?s color photography is beautiful, it has that three strip Technicolor look to it that reminded me of the look of Powell and Presburger?s films. The setting must have felt very exotic to audiences at the time. The view of India is very much from the perspective of the colonial outsider and it often glosses over the social realities of the Indian people. It?s not the most politically interested film, and that is a surprise given Renoir?s previous examinations of class and poverty earlier in his career. I thought the acting was pretty weak during a lot of it, the main character has a lot of typical child actress weaknesses, and Thomas E. Breen is also pretty weak in the film (he was a non-actor). I wasn?t particularly impressed by it outside of it?s technical aspects for most of the running time, but a funny thing happened somewhere in the third act? I began to care about the characters, a lot. I really started to worry about their fates and by the end I really wanted to keep watching these people.


Super Reviewer

This was not the man vs. nature struggle I was rather expecting from the title, in fact this was directed by Jean Renoir and is a coming-of-age tale centered around an English family living in India. Watching the growing pains of privileged teenage sisters who are not particularly likable is not my idea of a great time at the movies, but the colors, sounds, and surroundings of India - shot entirely on location - makes it palatable.

Doctor Strangeblog
Doctor Strangeblog

Super Reviewer

Martin Scorcese considers this and Michael Powell's Red Shoes to be the most beautifully photographed Technicolor films in history. It's hard to disagree. The craft and photography in this film belongs on the list with The Searchers, Il Conformista, and In the Mood for Love as the greatest achievments of color photography

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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