Director Brigitte Berman’s The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent is a brilliant first-person portrait of one of Canada’s most beloved actors, Gordon Pinsent, whose formidable and thoughtful storytelling takes us from his childhood in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, through a body of work (the 1960s series Quentin Durgens, M.P., classics The Rowdyman and John and the Missus, acclaimed latter-day films Away from Her and Two Lovers and Bear) that is embedded in our national consciousness.
With an irrepressible spark, the natural raconteur relates how, as a young man in 1948, he left the Rock to come to Toronto. Flat broke but driven by the dream of working in entertainment, he bounced from one job to the next in a picaresque series of hilarious missteps and joyous breakthroughs. He would later be joined on this adventure by the love of his life, grand dame of theatre Charmion King. The film also features Pinsent’s children who speak candidly about growing up in close proximity to the entertainment world, while fellow artists and friends including Christopher Plummer, Norman Jewison, and Mary Walsh further define Pinsent’s personable appeal.
Now 86, the accomplished writer, painter, actor and director looks back—and ahead—with the same fervent passion that has fed all facets of his life. In some of the most beautiful passages of River, Pinsent recites Keats, Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll. His unmistakable voice gives us a sense of a life fully lived and of a mischievous playfulness behind the serious sonority. Berman’s film is a charming trip through decades of Canadian culture, one that allows us to see how cultural legacies are built.