Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31

Critic Reviews

  1. Potent and eye-opening documentary.
  2. It's not a hasty, knocked-together promo job--though it is clearly pro-Kerry.
  3. It's obviously meant to help his presidential candidacy - why release it a month before the election, otherwise? - and for the first 7 minutes, it plays like a campaign commercial about young John's integrity, hard work and humble roots.
  4. It's a partisan campaign film, of course, but a subtle one.
  5. It's hagiography, yes, but also powerful and poignant.
  6. 80
    The most powerful and telling image is a black-and-white still of Kerry burying his face in his arms after he threw his ribbons onto the Capitol steps; it's a moment true enough to cost him the presidency.
  7. Butler's film hopes to confront our national battle fatigue so that we may move on.
  8. 75
    Butler's film still manages to accomplish what the candidate's foundering campaign has utterly failed to do.
  9. 75
    Guaranteed to engage the decided and undecided alike, regardless of party affiliations.
  10. The older John Kerry, today's candidate, is conspicuous both by his absence (he's not interviewed here) and by the contrast between then and now, between the hero he was and the politician he's become. That contrast gives the film a nostalgic yet palpable sadness.
  11. 75
    His film is pro-Kerry, yes, but the focus is on history, not polemics, and provides a record of the crucial role of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
  12. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Begins and ends as a fulsome Kerry campaign bio along the lines of the famed Bill Clinton convention short, "The Man From Hope."
  13. An unabashed paean to Kerry's character at a time in the presidential election when Kerry's character is being questioned. It's also a riveting film.
  14. 70
    When it steers away from campaign-ad testimonials and considers Kerry's moral awakening in Vietnam and beyond, Going Upriver features some tremendously powerful scenes.
  15. 70
    I got a charge out of Going Upriver, but as more than one person has noted, the movie's ideal spectator would be Kerry himself.
  16. It's one view of Kerry that seems to have been lost in the present acrimonious shuffle.
  17. Going Upriver is a small, valuable contribution to the continuing project of sorting out and making sense of Vietnam, a war that, among other things, opened a fissure at the heart of American liberalism that has yet to heal.
  18. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Makes an eloquent case for John Kerry's courage, both during and immediately after his service in Vietnam.
  19. While the film is unabashedly pro-Kerry --Butler and Kerry are longtime friends -- it isn't simple hagiography; it's also a portrait of Vietnam War-era America.
  20. 70
    Crisp, informative documentary.
  21. 70
    A lucid, emotionally affecting portrait not just of one man but of his times.
  22. A clearly partisan effort -- director George Butler is a longtime Kerry friend and supporter -- the film is nonetheless bound to have some political impact, thanks to its powerful depiction of the young Kerry.
  23. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    It's hard not to be impressed by Kerry's courage and calm leadership--and to wonder if that guy will show up again.
  24. 67
    Someone should send him (Kerry) a copy, if only to remind the senator of the days when he was willing and able to speak with the courage of his convictions, and when he had a lot less to lose.
  25. Does an excellent job of telling Kerry's side of it.
  26. The film leaves the viewer with a more vivid sense of Kerry the man, portraying him as admirable, if not lovable.
  27. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Butler is in no way a hot-headed or contentious piece of agit-prop, unlike so many other election year documentaries; like Kerry himself, the film speaks to the mind, not the emotions.
  28. It underscores, with ample footage from his rallying speeches and his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, just how important it was for the antiwar movement to be represented by someone like Kerry.
  29. 50
    The film won't likely change any minds, but there's a taut political essay beneath the blatant campaigning.
  30. This is the biggest surprise of all -- it's hard to watch Going Upriver without wondering, frankly, what became of the young John Kerry, who comes off so exceptionally well in this film.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 19 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 12
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 12
  3. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. KimR.
    Sep 24, 2005
    It is September 2005, and I cried at the end of this film from an overwheming sense that we have all made a terrible mistake - this man It is September 2005, and I cried at the end of this film from an overwheming sense that we have all made a terrible mistake - this man should be in the White House - as our President. Full Review »