Old Joy is Kelly Reichardt's new film about the story of two friends, Kurt (Will Oldham) and Mark (Daniel London), who reunite for a weekend camping trip in the Cascade mountain range east of Portland, Oregon. Reichard based the movie on the short story, "Old Joy," by Jonathan Raymond, who co-wrote the film as well. It is a quiet, beautiful film about, if anything, friendship and how it wears away. It is brilliantly shot by Peter Sillen who decides to mix breathtaking views of the Cascades with the mundane aspects of a road trip, like factories and worn down bridges, that can sometimes mean just as much as the trees, rock, and rivers, in defining an adventure.
Ok, so it wasn't the amazing Times review that made me see this movie. I'll be honest; it was Will Oldham. I mean, come on, what Will Oldham fan wouldn't jump at an opportunity to see him on the silver screen? He's been there before, I know, but I've never witnessed it. So I went. And while the character of Kurt probably isn't a far stretch for Oldham to play, he still did it wonderfully. He's a free spirit that is hungry to keep seeking out new people, new experiences, but also to keep hold of the past. The fact that Oldham's big beard hides his face adds even more mystery to his character and what is going on his head.
The movie has very little dialogue from Oldham and London, but when there is discourse between the two, it comes across just the way I think that Reichardt intended it to. It's full of awkwardness and strain, but also full of compassion and the desire to regain a friendship that is quietly and subtly fading. Kurt and Mark were friends growing up, but their lives have taken them to completely different places. It seems as though the two know what has happened, but Kurt, unlike Mark, won't accept it. There is a scene in front of the campfire in which Oldham's character Kurt, drunk and stoned, decides to address the issue. Mark (London) denies it, and Kurt (Oldham) quickly tries to forget the situation. "I'm just being crazy, I know. Don't pay any attention to me," he says. It's a truthful moment that we can all have some attachment to. We all have friends from the past whom we think we are as close to as when we were 9, 15, or 20, but we know that time and life have diminished what we once had.
Old Joy is a fantastic film that will hopefully leave you as happy as I was after I finished watching it. It is playing in NYC at Film Forum until October 3rd, so go check it out. If not for the plot, go because you loved I See A Darkness or because you love Yo La Tengo. (They scored the soundtrack.)