Old Joy (Reichardt, 2006)

Old Joy, a sublime glance at an out of date friendship between two thirty-something men, produces a sense of sadness and longing as natural as the forest landscape dominating much of it’s screen time. Mark (Daniel London), a soon to be father, takes a weekend trip to a secluded hot springs with Kurt (Will Oldham), a raggedy but kind old friend who has drifted back into town. It’s a strange friendship, one built upon a shared history instead of any particular common interest or ideology. Mark is somewhat stiff, while Kurt calmly smokes pot and muses on his theories about the world and physics. They get lost because Kurt really has little clue to the actual location of the hot springs. Each character’s reaction to this initial obstacle largely represents what director Reichardt wants to say – Kurt longs for companionship, a friendly reminder of a nostalgic past, while Mark simply wants to get the trip over with, as if it’s a chore he must complete to feel good about himself. This dynamic makes for a wonderful parallel to Reichardt’s brilliant use of long shots tracing the passing countryside, whether it be of the deep forest terrain or the vast cityscape. Since both Mark and Kurt approach the trip with different expectations, the inevitable collision between the two POV’s is remarkable for it’s silence toward human connection, revealing the fear we experience when something so out of place feels so right. Old Joy contemplates many buried emotions, but none more so than regret, both in the wake of major life changes, or in Kurt’s case, the realization it’s not going to change at all. A great example of the American Independent film spirit.

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