When Jason comes back to his hometown to try to study for the bar exam, he soon discovers that God has other plans for him. He finds old friends have changed more than he thought and ponders what could have been if he had not gone to law school. When his former pastor insists he lead the youth group, Jason is hesitant at first but soon realizes that he likes to help the youth. As Jason slowly finds out more and more about the people around him, he begins to grasp what God really wants for his life.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
For starters, The River Within is basically an average production. Video quality is okay, as is the camera work, though there are some weird angles. Unfortunately, audio quality is quite cheap, with loud outside sounds and too much dead air. The soundtrack leaves much to be desired. Editing is also an issue, as the beginning of the film has tons of useless footage, abrupt scene transitions, and awkward cutoffs. However, despite the issues at the beginning, all production aspects of this film do improve as it goes on. By the end, one has to wonder why it was not better at the beginning, but it does get better if you stick with it, thus making this an overall average production.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Needless to say, the beginning of The River Within is incredibly boring, depicting flat characters doing stuff that doesn’t really hold the attention. As nothing of note happens for half an hour or so, there are too many parts that have no real purpose or focus. Good issues in the church are highlighted, but sometimes quick fixes are suggested for the problems. By the middle of the plot, there are some strange, out-of-place attempts at comedy that make the viewer want to just end their experience. However, if you make it to the last thirty minutes of the movie, things finally start to make sense. Characters become deeper than they were with believable back stories and thought-provoking dialogue. Things do not turn out the way you might think in the end. Basically, if you can last through the first hour, the message is very good and the ending effective, though it takes forever to get to it.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Like the rest of the film, the acting starts out rough, with vanilla delivery and mumbled lines, but gets better as it goes on. Emotions are wooden at first but become more believable as it goes on. This was actually a decent cast, but they didn’t receive the support they needed at first. Once again, this portion comes out as average.
The River Within feels like it was made for the last thirty minutes of runtime. It’s likely that this portion was written first and then the remainder was tacked on the beginning to make it long enough. However, this is not a winning model as most viewers aren’t going to make it to the point at the end. Character-based plots need to be developed throughout so that the audience can get to know them better over a roughly ninety-minute time period. Nonetheless, we feel that this film was sincere and that the creators really care about their message. Thus, The River Within desperately needs a remake since the ideas therein need to portrayed in film. Perhaps one day its ideas will be repackaged to have wider appeal.
Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points