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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Old Joy Film Review - Kelly Reichardt Jon Raymond

Friends Mark and Kurt meet up to spend the night camping in an Oregon forest. They are grow men in their 30's or 40's.  You sense that they have grown up together and once experienced a care free, road trip, spiritual, hippie-esque  lifestyle during their younger days.   These were the kind of guys that likely followed the Grateful Dead during the day while spending nights in their cars or camped in local woods nearby.

Mark (Daniel London) has clearly accepted or at least resigned himself to the responsibilities of adult hood. He has a stable job teaching carpentry and a baby on the way. He feels attached to Kurt but has other priorities that prevent the two from spending more time together.

Kurt (Will Oldham) does not accept growing up as readily and lives more in the past than Mark. He pines for the older days. Have you ever met an adult that can not seem to escape childhood? A grown up that has no stable home, refuses to hold down a job, talks about how great the past was, and has no plans for the future?  He or she might be like Kurt.

If I made these characters sound too one-dimensional I must apologize. The characters are more complicated than this. This film is written by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond. Two writers that bring terrific subtle complexities to characters (see Wendy and Lucy.) This is a movie that says so much about these two characters without saying much at all. Kurt does not want any part of growing up but he doesn't stand in the way of others that do. He is non judgmental and very kind. This is not a self absorbed partier that disrupts people's lives. It is as if he quietly, desperately wants to live in the past but he also embodies a tiny, envious attraction to the mature adulthood he'll never attain.

Mark might be the responsible one but I get the feeling, without the movie saying a word about this, that there is some inner force that wants to go back in time with Kurt again. Fortunately for his wife and soon to be born baby, it is obvious that his sense of responsibility is far stronger than his desire to regress.

These men have so much in common. What makes this film unique is that the only source of tension in this movie is the degree of their commonalities. One man willing to move forward in life but still holds some of the passions of his youth. The other man not willing to movie forward at all while embracing all of that passion.

This film does a wonderful job leaving some questions unanswered. To answer them would make this wonderfully understated film overstated. Check out the subtle way Mark adjusts his hand on the steering wheel in the end of the film. Is he considering turning his life back toward those more youthful days?

How about Kurt? What is happening to him in the end? Has he reached the end of the line or just another night on the town?

My only complaint is in the dialog between Mark and his wife Tanya (Tanya Smith) in beginning of the film. It felt a little stiff and the camera shot felt low budget (which I suspect this film is). Otherwise, this is a beautiful film. I have never seen such gorgeous, damp, dense, woody terrain. I wanted to jump on a plane to this place (Oregon) and experience it rain and all. I suppose if I were more like Kurt, I would hop on that plane. I'm a bit more like Mark though, so I'll think about it another time. Which character are you?

Check out this film.

Rated R


76 Minutes

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