River’s Edge

Director: Tim Hunter
Screenwriters: Neal Jimenez


River's Edge is a dark and disturbing film. It was even more disquieting when it first screened in the dramatic competition at the 1987 Sundance Film Festival because it was one of the first films to profile the alienation and isolation of American youth from their own perspective.

The most shocking thing is not that John (Daniel Roebuck) strangles his girlfriend, Jamie, by the river simply because "he wanted to show the world who was boss." Nor that, after he takes their friends to see the body, only one person, Matt (Keanu Reeves), thinks they should turn him in and follows through. The frightening thing is that Jamie's friends are so dislocated that they can't summon any feelings for her or experience a sense of loss over her death. They simply go on numbly living their lives.

River's Edge is full of perceptive performances: Crispin Glover as the manic Lane; Ione Skye Leitch as Clarissa, so longing to connect with someone; and Dennis Hopper as the eccentric, reclusive Feck, the only adult depicted with any sympathy. But the emotional heart of the film remains Reeves's Matt, and the bond he eventually forges with his rebellious brother Tim (Joshua Miller) holds out a hint of hope for the future.

In turning an unblinking eye on material mainstream films shunned, River's Edge proved itself a true independent. Twenty years later, it's as relevant as ever. Thanks to MGM for making this print available.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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