LAFF Report: Old Joy Review

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas (@peteramartin)


It would be easy to oversell Old Joy.

For a picture that achieves so much, very little appears to happen. Two long-time friends make preparations for a short camping trip. They drive into the Oregon woods. They get lost. One of them takes a phone call. They talk a little. They camp for the night. They have breakfast in the morning. One of them takes a phone call. They finally arrive at their intended destination, an outdoor spa. They take hot baths. One of them talks. They hike out. They drive home. The end.

See? It doesn't sound like much. Yet within its 72-minute running time, writer/director Kelly Reichardt pulls you into a long-time friendship that is facing a crossroads. One of the friends is about to become a father. The other is not, and knows that things between them have not been the same, and may never be the same again.

Now stop and think for a moment about your long-time friends. How do you talk to each other? Do your conversations sound like they were scripted by Quentin Tarantino or Richard Linklater?

Of course not. Reichardt captures the way two long-time friends might actually talk to and relate to each other. And the director also finds within those ordinary hours a turning point, a moment that refuses to call attention to itself, that puts the entire trip into perspective.

OLD JOY is soft, gentle, delicately nuanced, subtle, attuned to the rhythms of nature. It's sure to inspire debate, along the lines of, 'What did you see that I didn't? Nothing happened.'

I can't satisfactorily answer those who may expect more from the movie. OLD JOY feels intensely personal and nourishing to the soul. Don't expect anything and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Festival Atmosphere: Packed late aftenoon screening, very few walk outs. Jay Van Hoy, one of the film's producers, was on hand.

OLD JOY debuted at Sundance and also played Rotterdam and South by Southwest. It screens again at the Los Angeles Film Festival tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:00 p.m.

The official site is here.

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