Rachel River

Director: Sandy Smolan
Screenwriters: Carol Bly, Judith Guest

Institute History

  • 1988 Sundance Film Festival


Rachel River is a thoughtful tale centering on the small, predominantly Scandinavian community of Rachel River, Minnesota, where nothing and everything happens. Based on a collect ion of short stories by Carol Bly, the screenplay was adapted by Judith Guest (Ordinary People).

The story centers on Mary Graving (Pamela Reed), a fiercely independent, unattached young woman whose tough exterior masks a fragile, lonely soul. Mary, much admired by the townsfolk for her weekly radio show, must also, at intervals, deal with the sexual advances of several of the local men. There is Cordell (Richard Jenkins), Mary’s ex-husband who has a new car and a new girl, but hasn’t make an alimony payment for months; Jack Canon (James Olson), the funeral director; and Marlyn Huutula (Craig T. Nelson), a hulking, not-too-bright deputy sheriff. The veteran actress Viveca Lindfors also appears as Harriett White, a farmer’s stoic wife who bravely confronts the reality of her life.

— Marjorie Skouras

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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