River Made to Drown In tells the story of Allen Hayden (Michael Imperioli). Allen is an aspiring artist living in Hollywood, struggling to make it in his chosen field. He’s involved with the wealthy gallery owner Eva Kline (Ute Lemper). While his career isn’t going as well as he hopes, his life is relatively settled, which hides a secret: not so long ago, Allen was working as a hustler in the city.
That secret is brought up again by the unexpected visit of a former john, the aging lawyer Thaddeus MacKenzie (Richard Chamberlain.) Thaddeus is dying of AIDS, and begs Allen to take him in so he can be close to one of the only people he ever loved as he dies. Allen reluctantly agrees, even as Eva starts to ask questions about Thaddeus and Allen’s history with him, straining their relationship.
Thaddeus also wants Allen to help him with another problem. There’s another hustler, Jaime (James Duval), with whom Thaddeus was close. He’s concerned that he may have infected Jaime with AIDS, and wants to find him. Being too sick to do it himself, he asks Allen to do it for him. Allen then returns to the streets he used to walk, searching for Jaime. He eventually finds him—Jaime is working as a hustler to fund a visit to his father, a Buddhist monk. He convinces Jaime to come be with Thaddeus as he dies, but the pull of returning to the street after visiting it once is too much for Allen, and he returns to hustling, with Jaime now.
“A finely attuned and deftly executed little film, unassuming and unpretentious, about hustlers in Hollywood and the impossibility of escaping ourselves.”
Did You Know?
The director or River Made to Drown In, James Merendino, went on to direct several successful independent films, including the film SLC Punk—but chose to have his name removed from the credits of this film. The director is credited as Alan Smithee, and was only identified as Merendino’s later. The title is a reference to Santa Monica Boulevard, where much of the film is set, as a place where people go to be lost and exploited. Review our Gay Themed Films Here