River (2021)

A young woman named River goes back to her hometown following the passing of her mother. As she works through her grief and clearing her childhood home, she goes on a self-discovery journey which includes disappearing for an extended period of time and potential outside forces at play. 

Written and directed by Emily Skye, this is the kind of film with so much potential, the kind of film that people want to love, the kind of film that should have so much more to offer. Here, the potential gets lost. It gets lost in that the film loses the interest before it gets to its point. There is some interest and some mystery here and there, but the film takes too long to get to the meat of the subject. The story has some strong point including its depiction of grief which feels like it’s right on point, at least for some, and shows how each person handles the same situation differently. The emotional side of things works, but having the story get mushed up and letting the viewer down unfortunately loses the emotional impact. 

The performances in this film are strong, beyond what one would expect when the story is a bit off and loses the interest. The performances are not to blame for anything here as they are a good, stable element of the film. Lead Mary Cameron Rogers gives the anchoring performance of the film and she gives her all to her character of River. She is the emotional center of the film and does great here. Her work has some more in your face elements when needed and some subtle elements at all times. She gives grief nuance and shows the stages of it through her self-discovery journey. As it is, her performance saves the film here and makes it something much stronger. Working with and around her are Courtney Gains, Becki Hayes, Alexandra Rose, and Rob Marshall. All of their work is decent to great, giving the film a good ensemble performance. 

River is a scifi take on self-discovery that wants to be a lot, but ends up losing attention here and there, which leads to the film losing on the overall. The performance by lead Mary Cameron Rodgers is on point though and she really takes this film from something that could have been forgettable to something that is worth watching. Her work, with the rest of the cast as support, carries the film much further than the story itself would have.