The River Why (film)

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The River Why
The River Why FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler
Produced by Kristi Denton Cohen
Written by Thomas A. Cohen
John Jay Osborn, Jr.
Starring Zach Gilford
Amber Heard
Kathleen Quinlan
Dallas Roberts
William Devane
William Hurt
Cinematography Karsten Gopinath
Release dates
  • April 2010 (2010-04) (Newport Beach)
Country United States
Language English

The River Why is a 2010 American independent drama film directed by Matthew Leutwyler. It is an adaptation of the 1983 Sierra Club novel of the same name by David James Duncan[1] and stars Zach Gilford, William Hurt and Amber Heard. Showtime broadcast the film in August 2011[2] and was later screened[3] in the United States as benefit for fish and river conservation groups. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 8, 2011.[4] The film won the award for Best Cinematography at the Ashland Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best film at The Naples International Film Festival.


The River Why is an adaptation of the 1983 Sierra Club novel by David James Duncan. The coming-of-age tale centers on a young man named Augustine "Gus" Orviston (Zach Gilford) and his quest for an elusive rainbow trout, which is a metaphor for the man's internal search for self-knowledge. Amber Heard plays his love interest, a tomboy fly-fisher named Eddy. It starts out with Gus, a discontented city-dweller, fresh out of school. Living with his father, a man who literally has a bible on fly-fishing and his mother, a just as avid non-fly fisherman, Gus and his rather quiet little brother, deal with a lot of heated debates from his parents. They also hear the story of how both parents fishing for the same prized Rainbow Trout led to them falling in love constantly. After a day in the city where Gus catches a glimpse of the tom-boy Eddy at a fishing demonstration, he ends the night storming out and burning the prized family trout after a heated argument with his parents. Feeling it is time for a change, Gus drives out to the best fishing grounds he can find and obtains an old shack to stay in. He wakes up the next morning with one goal: fish all day and every day. This works out quite well for Gus as he also manages to get extra food from the sociable neighbors and their band of children who trade him fresh produce for the occasional fishing lesson. Everything is working well for Gus until he comes across a dead fisherman upriver. Unsure of what to do, Gus loads him into his boat and drags him and a water-filled boat back to land. Although the exhausted Gus is fine physically, he is in an emotional turmoil. Although he is living an idyllic lifestyle and has complete freedom, he feels empty and confused. Although Gus, like the majority of humans had faced and known about death before, this was his first awakening to it. Gus is unsure of what to do until he meets a philosophic man, Titus, who talks to him about other goals and philosophies in life. Although Gus is still having a relatively hard time, he manages to start to rebuild himself emotionally. One day, while walking along the river-bank, he sees Eddy skinny-dipping and fishing. Amazed at the sight, but wanting to be decent, Gus quickly puts down his things and runs the other way. He whistles to signify he is coming, giving Eddy the chance to cover up. He and Eddy manage to lead a very awkward conversation with Gus not knowing what to say, and Eddy seeing his things and leaving. Gus keeps her fish and fishing pole until she can get it back and walks home pleasantly surprised. The next day, he helps a rather terrible fisherman and newspaper editor catch his fish. This man is so impressed that he writes an intriguing article about mysterious fisherman, Augustine (Gus) Orviston. Gus also has him include his personal information so Eddy can come get her stuff. Gus is starting to get a lot of fame and fortune from people coming to visit and get fishing advice from this "amazing Augustine." Gus is doing better keeping busy, but he is still having a hard time making sense of everything. Then, Eddy comes back. Gus lets her stay at his house, but this quickly leads to them discovering their feelings for each other. Although this is a rather innocent relationship, it is also believable to have in "real life." This culminates to Eddy catching a rainbow trout to Gus's disbelief, but telling him that it is his job to tire the trout out and catch it. Gus spends all night catching this fish, and showing an amazing level of passion while he does so. But, when Gus catches the fish, he decides to let it go. He then finds Eddy and they consummate their relationship. And although he displays a truly inspiring level of passion for fishing, he shows even more care and devotion to Eddy, which she returns wholeheartedly. A few days later, Eddy wanders off while Gus is fixing the house. Gus follows her soon after and finds her fishing with his family. The story culminates with Gus forgiving his parents and finding what he was searching for all along; happiness and purpose. The "River Why" can be seen as a philosophic outlook on life. Although Gus was originally searching for solitude in fishing with his grand prize as the rainbow trout, he ends up letting the rainbow trout go for what life is pushing him towards; his own family and life. This may not have been what he originally wanted, but it led him to true happiness. And in a way, we all have our own goals or "rainbow trout," but sometimes life may push us another way, and that other way could be to true happiness. And true happiness is the real rainbow trout we are all looking for.


Actor Role
Zach Gilford Gus Orviston
Amber Heard Eddy
William Hurt Gus's Father
Dallas Roberts Titus
Kathleen Quinlan Ma
Brendan Robinson Kernie
Nikki DeLoach Young Ma
William Devane Dutch Hines
Gattlin Griffith Bill Bob
Robert Zorn Fly Shop Owner
Breanna Aleigh Grimes Marlene


Since April 30, 2008, the film rights to The River Why have become the subject of a lawsuit by novelist Duncan, alleging copyright infringement among other issues.[5][6] The lawsuit was settled and the case dismissed in November 2008.[citation needed]

In June 2008, actors William Hurt and Amber Heard joined the cast; filming began in Portland, Oregon in July 2008.[1]


External links[edit]