Based on an actual incident that epitomizes the numbing of sympathy and compassion among (among others) the young during Ronald Reagan’s pathological presidency, Tim Hunter’s shrewd, at times witheringly funny River’s Edge, from a brilliant script by Neal Jimenez, observes a group of U.S. teens who fail to adequately respond to a classmate’s murder by another classmate.
Beautifully lensed by Frederick Elmes, the film shows frosty pastels that help evoke a bloodless America that has been separated from its human heart; irresponsible children and adults compose a community that, broken, lacks moral bearings. One boy, though, disturbed by his lack of disturbance, does break rank to report the strangulation-rape. Another irresponsible act, however, ensues: the police accuse him of criminal complicity.
Will the center—this emotionally honest youth—hold? As the modern-day Huck Finn, in over his head as surrogate father to two siblings and, on occasion, their mother (this parallels the killer, who cares for an elderly aunt), Keanu Reeves beautifully executes the richest adolescent role since Béatrice Romand’s in Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1970).
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