The River Review

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Three girls from three separate families all live in homes situated along a big river in the Indian part of Bengal. The three young women have different circumstances, but all of them will come to love the same man.


Jean Renoir was cinema’s supreme humanist, and his empathy with the various outsiders seeking purpose and acceptance in an isolated Indian community imbues this adaptation of Rumer Godden’s rites-of-passage novel with a touching compassion and wisdom. His appreciation of the relentless flow of life and his lyrical contrasts between the indigenous and imported cultures give everyday incidents the same import as the more seismic events affecting adolescent Patricia Walters, war veteran Thomas E. Breen and Radha’s outcast waif.

However, some of the story’s socio-political attitudes have dated badly, and the performances of the inexperienced cast members occasionally threaten to undermine the authenticity of the drama.

Gloriously photographed and providing perceptive insights into contrasting cultures, this melodrama flows with the majesty of the Ganges. But its attitudes to race and gender now sit as uncomfortably as some of the performances.