Sometimes the best of intentions can just blow straight up in your face.
While for the most part River is a solid and well performed film but it has ending that cinematically shits the bed in ways that I am still shaking my head at.
A triage situation can rattle any doctor, and when John Lake (Rossif Sutherland) an American Volunteer Doctor in Laos refuses to follow the instructions of a senior surgeon, he is sent on a mandatory vacation to determine if can continue to hold up to the emotional rigors of the job at hand. To recharge his batteries he travels to a remote island in the south of the country for some much needed rest and relaxation, which sadly he never gets. After a chance encounter at a bar, he intervenes in the sexual assault of a young Laotian woman and he accidentally kills her attacker. Panicked he runs and soon fines that not only are the after him for the murder but the sexual assault that he tried to stop. Having to hide deep in the Laotian interior he sets himself out on a journey that he never expected and one that will change him profoundly.
This feature debut from writer/director Jamie M. Dagg actually kicks off fairly strongly as we follow this young doctor’s worst nightmare but ends up sliding into an unbelievable mush of a narrative that a toddler wouldn’t believe.
Dagg has a clear talent for shooting and it all unfurls in a reasonable fashion as the stress of being a relief doctor is getting to our protagonist. He executes the set up and the chase of it all fairly well and shows an adept skill at shooting on the run with obvious budget constrictions. It’s never flashy but always looks solid managing to add to the ominously dark nature that a country like Laos can bring with it.
As protagonist and star, Rossif Sutherland shows that he has the chops to carry a movie with ease. He makes his sad sack and terrified doctor someone that we can get behind and even root for as he is in this horrible situation in a country where no one in their right mind would ever want to go to jail. Sadly Sutherland gets stuck in selling this incredibly weak ending that basically goes against the bulk of the film that we just watched and it can’t help but leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Since River does get off to a solid start it is hard to write it off entirely but as it flows towards its ending you can’t help but wonder how it would have ended up if it hadn’t been for these awkward stones of narrative that got thrown into all sending it completely out of wack.