Meandering Like a River
It had been 15 years since he last saw his brother so when an unkempt looking Lawrence (Jerry O'Connell - Stand by Me) shows up on his doorstep Edward (Neal McDonough) is taken aback and uncomfortable with him being there. So at the end of the day when Edward quietly inquires if he can stay a few days Edward politely says no, gives him money and takes him to get a bus. But his visit causes Edward to think back to their childhood and how as a boy (Nick Stahl - Incident in a Small Town) he idolised his clever but rebellious older brother until a series of events including their mother's relationship with Henry Howland (Sam Elliott - Tombstone) caused issues.
As mentioned "Blue River" starts with Lawrence appearing on Edward's doorstep and the most fascinating thing about this is the make-up job on Jerry O'Connell to make him look unkempt and suffering from a thinning hair line beneath dirty, shaggy hair. It's not the most authentic make up jobs you will see and makes him look like a hill billy cousin of Tommy Lee Jones crossed with something about of "Planet of the Apes". Now in fairness there are other things going on in this lead in to the main storyline, we have a nice amount of intrigue generated by Neal McDonough as to what could have happened between brothers for him to be uneasy to have his older brother around.
But the bulk of the storyline takes us back to their childhood where along with sister Darienne are being raised by their mum after their father left. Now "Blue River" keeps you hanging as to what the story is as it doesn't just spoon feed us what is going on. We see how Edward idolises Lawrence, we see that his mum is a Christian fundamentalist and we also see that she is dating the strict Mr. Howland, played by Sam Elliott without his trademark moustache which is as surprising as the initial make up job on O'Connell. But we also get to see not only that Lawrence has a violent side but we also encounter a scene of what borders on inappropriate closeness between Lawrence and their mum after he comes home blooded from a fight. At this point you still wonder as to where all this is leading, is Lawrence's violent streak the storyline or is there something darker going on.
And then it introduces a character called Zoltan who has a thing for burning down old buildings and general bad behaviour which he draws young Edward into. And I could go on because this story keeps on evolving in such a way that you have no idea where it is going to end other than something which caused an issue between Edward and Lawrence. Now that means that for those who like stories served up on a plate may find this a struggle but for those who can keep focussed on a slowly unfolding drama will find its creeping narrative interesting.
Now aside from the shocking make-up job on O'Connell early on he plays his part well as he brings different layers to the character, one moment violent, the next protective and caring making him interesting and more importantly dangerous. O'Connell's performance is matched by a quietly sensitive performance from Nick Stahl as his younger brother, bringing the aspect of sibling idolisation to the role perfectly. In fact there are good performances through out with Sam Elliott bringing that depth which you expect from him to make his character as interesting as all the others.
What this all boils down to is that "Blue River" is not with out its problems but it is an intelligently written and directed movie which forces you to watch and pay attention in order to understand what is going on.