One of the most famous men (Teddy Roosevelt) in the world sets out on a journey to map an uncharted tributary in the Amazon, which turns into a terrifying descent into a psychological abyss where he comes face-to-face with the limits of his ambition and deepest regrets. (Screenplay: Drama/Historical)
Shortly after the devastating defeat in the 1912 presidential election, Theodore “TR” Roosevelt faces a daunting, unexpected challenge: what should he do with the rest of his life. A man of historic prominence and incomparable action with an insatiable curiosity who is struggling to stay a step ahead of the family curse of melancholy that’s led some relatives into the dark corners of despair, TR is emboldened by an expedition to South America, where he’s been invited to give several lectures and come along on a modest excursion into the Amazon jungle.
Notions of a serene and “safe” trip through the jungle, however, change dramatically when TR agrees to join a legendary South African adventurer on the endeavor to map an uncharted tributary, River of Doubt. The adventure through the stark and awe-inspiring landscape is transformed into an inward journey as TR comes to grip with mortality; a deep-seated self-righteousness; and, the gnawing regret of having his brother – a self-destructive alcoholic – placed in a sanitarium. (TR’s brother, Elliott – who is also the father of Eleanor Roosevelt – could not overcome his own demons and committed suicide twenty years earlier.)
From the height of power as president of the United States to a shriveling man infected by malaria, TR finds himself in an unaccustomed helplessness cast somewhere in an unmapped region of the one of the world’s strangest and most mysterious regions. Winning the campaign in the Amazon means coming to terms with the ever-expanding grayness of despair pervading his disposition.
In the end, TR faces the limits of his ambition and the depth of his regret that he couldn’t save his younger brother, Elliott, while he realizes the haunting parallels between his brother and his son, Kermit, who accompanies him on the expedition.
Along the way, TR learns the river is the current that passes through life blending experiences in way that makes the past, present and future inextricably bound.
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