Directed by Robert Redford, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT employs picture-postcard scenery as a backdrop for a mildly engaging family melodrama. Norman (Craig Sheffer) and Paul MacLean (Brad Pitt) grow up in a Montana town under the stern but loving guidance of their Presbyterian minister father, Reverend MacLean (Tom Skerritt), and soft-spoken mother (Brenda Blethyn). After school lessons, the Reverend lets the boys share his greatest passion--fly fishing. To the elder MacLean, the sport is almost a religion. Young Paul is continually rebelling against the Reverend, while Norman is the responsible son. When they grow up, Norman goes away to college and Paul stays in Montana, becoming a newspaper reporter. When Norman returns from college, he is disturbed by Paul's gambling, drinking and skirt-chasing, but can do little to stop his brother's downward spiral, which eventually leads to a tragic end. Meanwhile, Norman falls in love with Jesse Burns (Emily Lloyd), a flapper from an eccentric Methodist family. Some 12 years after making his directorial debut with ORDINARY PEOPLE, Robert Redford once again turns his attention to the story of a family. His directorial style, however, involves little more than a tendency to use huge close-ups of every performer--particularly Sheffer and Pitt, who are continually shown looking at each other, even when they have nothing to say. While Redford centers on the actors, the screenplay wallows in cliches. Richard Friedenberg, who adapted Norman MacLean's autobiographical novella, does little to make this depiction of 1920s Montana fresh, and Norman's narration is chock-full of neo-philosophical platitudes: "Life is not a work of art," etc. Compounding the situation is the fact that fly fishing isn't the most visually dynamic of sports. Even set against the Sierra Club beauty of Redford's Montana, it's hard to get excited by fisherman casting their lines into the water.